Tourism officials in the state’s four biggest cities expect to lose at least $407 million in revenue from upcoming events if the “bathroom bill” becomes law. Scores more event planners are likely to bypass Texas entirely in the future, they say.
Every three years, the American Public Transportation Association holds an event it calls the APTA EXPO. For its 2026 EXPO, the trade group for the “bus, rapid transit and commuter rail systems industry” had put Dallas on its list of possible destinations, according to city officials, who estimated the event would generate more than $40 million in economic activity.
Then the “bathroom bill” began moving forward in the Texas Legislature. That prompted the association to warn the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau that it may be out of the running for an event nine years in the future.
“We are looking at several cities for our EXPO and Dallas is one city under consideration,” Lenay Gore, the association’s senior director of meetings and trade shows, told the Tribune. “If the law passes, we would not consider Texas for any future meetings.”
The group is just one of dozens of trade organizations, businesses and sports associations that have reached out to officials in Texas cities in recent months as the “bathroom bill” has drawn national attention. Tourism officials in the state’s four biggest cities – Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio – expect to lose at least $407 million in economic activity from missing out on potential upcoming events if the bill becomes law.
Beyond that, scores more event planners are likely to bypass Texas entirely in the future, they say.
“If this bill passes, by the time Texas feels any economic impact, it will be too late to react,” said Mike Waterman, president of the Greater Houston Convention Visitors Bureau. “You may not see a significant economic impact in 2017 or even 2018,” Waterman said. “But in 2019 you will see some and 2021, 2022 and 2023 could be potentially catastrophic.”
Senate Bill 6 — a legislative priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — would regulate bathroom use in public schools and government buildings on the basis of “biological sex,” prohibiting most transgender people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. The legislation would also nix local anti-discrimination laws meant to allow transgender residents to use public bathrooms that match their gender identity.
Along with concerns about discrimination, the bill has also prompted concerns about its economic impact. North Carolina saw the cancellation of national events worth millions following its passage of a similar law. A recent survey of 212 meeting planners published in Meetings & Conventions magazine revealed that about half said that laws harming the rights of LGBTQ individuals would affect their site selection decisions.
Patrick has said the bill is addressing an important public safety issue.
“The bill is about public safety and the privacy of teenagers who don’t want to shower together in the tenth grade,” Patrick said.