San Antonio tourism leaders eye Legislature as new voting rights bill could have economic consequences

San Antonio community members say the local economy can be affected by the upcoming vote

Experts look at the Texas Legislature as a key vote over voting rights looms this session
Experts look at the Texas Legislature as a key vote over voting rights looms this session

SAN ANTONIO – Texas is considered to be the next battleground over voting rights. Community members say they are concerned about the political fallout from a new voting rights bill entering the Texas Legislature, which could affect the Alamo City’s economy.

Senate Bill 7′s authors would tell you that the bill is about preserving election integrity. Opponents, however, say they see the proposed restrictions, like prohibiting mail-in ballots from being sent to all voters and limiting the hours for extended early voting, as a form of voter suppression targeting minorities.

“If we know that it would impact tourism in San Antonio, then we would get in front of our legislators and let them know and educate them,” said Richard Oliver, spokesperson for the Visit San Antonio.

As of Tuesday, Oliver said there had been no negative feedback from convention planners and others considering events in San Antonio.

Oliver said in 2017, even just discussion of the so-called “bathroom bill,” preventing those who are transgender from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity, cost San Antonio $3 million in business.

According to Oliver, the tourism and hospitality industry, San Antonio’s third-largest, was worth $15.2 billion in revenue to the city prior to the pandemic. Oliver told KSAT that nothing has come up on Visit San Antonio’s radar, “but we are keeping an eye on it.”

Oliver said whatever the Texas Legislature does could have a seismic impact on an industry crippled by the pandemic.

“We lost nearly 300 meetings, costing us $434 million and more than 750,000 attendees,” Oliver said.

However, thanks to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and spring break, hotel occupancy rose to 60%, Oliver said.

Major corporations speaking out against Georgia’s recently enacted voter restrictions, and now some Texas-based companies, may impact San Antonio, said Thomas Tunstall, executive director of the UTSA Institute for Economic Development.

“Dell and American Airlines have come out against it. (This) suggests that other corporate entities, other businesses that might be thinking about relocating to Texas, may give it a second thought,” Tunstall said.

He said San Antonio is currently well-positioned with a great reputation.

Tunstall said it has seen growth in cybersecurity, bioscience, financial services, aerospace and automotive sectors, among others.

“The outlook for that is continued improvement,” Tunstall said. “The San Antonio Economic Development Foundation is making some important strides.”

However, he said the wild card would be if the legislation passes in its current form and the potential blowback that could follow.

Also on KSAT:

Corporate criticism of GOP-led voting bills spreads to Texas

Texas Senate advances bill limiting how and when voters can cast ballots, receive mail-in voting applications

Pressure mounts on corporations to denounce GOP voting bills


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