The state’s nearly $129 billion tourism industry would take a $3.3 billion hit each year and see an annual loss of 35,600 full-time equivalent jobs resulting from lost leisure travel and convention bookings if Texas lawmakers approved legislation restricting bathroom usage by transgender men and women, a study commissioned by the San Antonio Area Tourism Council shows.
The San Antonio area — including New Braunfels — could lose almost $412 million in local spending on restaurants, hotel rooms and attractions and see 4,650 jobs eliminated as a result, according to the study completed by the Waco-based Perryman Group. The city’s tourism industry generated $13.6 billion in economic activity last year, according to Visit San Antonio estimates.
Officials warn that the losses could multiply if a law such as Senate Bill 6 — which would bar transgender men and women from using bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity in public buildings — is left in tact for an extended period. Major events including conventions are booked years in advance, so the state may not see the full economic impact for some time, said Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San Antonio, the former city Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“This just undeniably proves that what we’ve been saying is the truth, that we know that such legislation such as SB 6 or bathroom bill or any version of that would have an negative economic impact to San Antonio and around the state,” Matej said.
Texas business leaders and tourism officials have long cautioned state lawmakers that passing legislation perceived as discriminatory against the LGBT community could produce a sizable economic fallout for the world’s 11th largest economy.
North Carolina saw dozens of businesses and groups scale back operations and cancel major events after lawmakers there enacted their own so-called transgender bathroom bill in 2016. Some estimates peg the cost to North Carolina at $500 million so far and at least 1,400 in lost jobs. An Associated Press analysis projected the law would cost North Carolina more than $3.76 billion in lost business over 12 years.
The NBA withdrew its All-Star Game from Charlotte and the Atlantic Coast Conference pulled its college football championship and woman’s college basketball tournament from the state.
The Atlantic Coast Conference in March it said it would reconsider North Carolina for future championship events after Gov. Roy Cooper signed a compromise bill that eased the state’s restrictions. The NCAA’s board of governors voted earlier this month to “reluctantly” back off the organization’s North Carolina boycott.
The NCAA’s move could be seen as a hopeful sign for local officials that the association will not pull its 2018 Final Four Championship from San Antonio, which is estimated to generate $135 million in local spending.
Tourism officials in the state’s four largest cities — San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Houston — previously told the Express-News that they stand to lose a combined $407 million within the next few years just on the conventions and events that have already threatened to take their business elsewhere if Senate Bill 6 passes.
Senate Bill 6 hasn’t gotten much traction in the Texas House of Representatives since passing the Texas Senate by a 21-10 vote last month. The bill’s not currently scheduled for a committee vote in the House, where it is viewed less favorably.
House Speaker Joe Straus prevented three amendments relating to the issue from being attached to a bill renewing the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates oil and gas, and coming to the full House floor for a vote earlier this month.
A House proposal introduced last week by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Corsicana, would prohibit cities and counties from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances and nullify existing ordinances that add classes of people not already protected by state law. The state currently includes race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin and age as protected classes.