Businesses, tourism industry respond to Religious Accommodation Act

Businesses, tourism industry respond to Religious Accommodation Act

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Several state governments banned state-sponsored travel to Mississippi after Gov. Phil Bryant signed the Religious Accommodation Act, and now Mississippi tourism and economic development groups are deciding how to respond to the law and if it will impact their industries.

"Mississippi welcomes all visitors to our great state," Visit Mississippi said in a statement. "The state is widely known for its cultural, recreational and entertainment offerings. Everyone is invited to come and experience Mississippi for themselves."

The Mississippi Tourism Association said in its statement it is already receiving trip cancellations because of House Bill 1523, but also emphasized that all people are welcome in Mississippi.

"The Mississippi Tourism Association recognizes that the intent of House Bill 1523 is to protect individuals and businesses from being forced to act against their own conscience. Our members statewide are reporting calls, emails and social media posts from people canceling or postponing trips to Mississippi due to national media reporting on this new law. Many of these tourists are known to our members personally because they are repeat guests, that have visited our state before, loved it, and have become regular visitors.

The Mississippi Tourism Association's 2016 tourism guide features Mississippi native and openly gay broadcast journalist Robin Roberts on its cover.

Hattiesburg's Area Development Partnership's Executive Vice President Valencia Williamson said she doesn't t think the law will be a deterrent for businesses looking to locate in Hattiesburg.

"Absolutely not," she said. "Greater Hattiesburg is a great place to do business. We're open for business. We're certainly always out recruiting companies into the community. I say it all the time, Chad says it all the time in our team. ADP does a great job at this. We've got a great product here in Hattiesburg. We should be really proud of the community that we have. We have a very strong business community. It's steeped in healthcare, education, military. We couldn't ask for a better partnership with our public sector and our private sector, so we're certainly glad to do business here in Hattiesburg and welcome any new companies."

On Friday however, executives from 10 major companies, including GE, The Coca-Cola Company, Choice Hotels International, Inc.and PepsiCo, partnered with the Human Rights Campaign to send a letter to Gov. Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and house Speaker Phillip Gunn asking them to repeal the law.

Dear Governor Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Reeves & Speaker Gunn: