Charlotte tourism arm says LGBT law causing potential conventions to look elsewhere

Charlotte tourism arm says LGBT law causing potential conventions to look elsewhere

CHARLOTTE, NC (Katherine Peralta/The Charlotte Obs - North Carolina's new law limiting LGBT protections has already dissuaded some outside businesses and groups from planning events in Charlotte, the city's tourism authority says.

Tom Murray, president and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, said Monday the group is "extremely concerned" about the controversial new legislation, and it continues to hear "negative feedback and potential event cancellations" from customers.

Some would-be customers have withdrawn their interest in Charlotte as a host destination, the CRVA said, though the group declined to say how many or which customers. No existing conventions have canceled yet, Murray said.

"On behalf of the visitor economy that represents one in nine jobs across the Charlotte region, we strongly urge that state and local leaders find a resolution that represents the best interests of our city and state," Murray said.

Apprehension among convention planners is the latest reaction to a new LGBT bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Pat McCrory. The bill was a response to a clause in Charlotte's expanded nondiscrimination ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender with which they identify.

Other major corporations, such as Lowe's and Google, as well as sports organizations including the NBA, have voiced their disapproval of the measure.

Edwin Lee, mayor of San Francisco, over the weekend banned publicly funded employee travel to North Carolina because of the new LGBT law.

Supporters of the measure say it addresses privacy concerns brought up by the Charlotte ordinance. They say the bill establishes a statewide anti-discrimination policy rather than varying city to city.

The CRVA has helped bring major events and conventions to Charlotte over the years, such as the 2010 convention of the National Rifle Association, and is helping to plan future ones like the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, which the city expects draw more visitors than any event since the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

"This issue is in danger of setting us back from the progress we've made in positioning Charlotte as an attractive, inclusive destination," Murray said.

Tourism and hospitality serves as the Charlotte region's fourth largest industry, generating more than $6.3 billion a year, according to the CRVA, a public organization supported by taxes on hotel and motel rooms and restaurant and bar tabs. Those tax dollars can be used only to promote the city or for tourism projects and research.