Stopping short of calling for a national travel boycott of Arizona, travel guru Arthur Frommer said he won't be making any trips to the Grand Canyon State following reports this week that a dozen protesters openly carried firearms just outside President Barack Obama's speech in Phoenix.
While Arizona law allows most adults to pack heat in public, Frommer said he was "shocked beyond measure" by the gun-toting "thugs" and "extremists," which included a man with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder.
"For myself, without yet suggesting that others follow me in an open boycott, I will not personally travel in a state where civilians carry loaded weapons onto the sidewalks and as a means of political protest," Frommer wrote on his blog.
"I not only believe such practices are a threat to the future of our democracy, but I am firmly convinced that they would also endanger my own personal safety there," he added.
"And therefore I will cancel any plans to vacation or otherwise visit in Arizona until I learn more. And I will begin thinking about whether tourists should safeguard themselves by avoiding stays in Arizona."
Frommer, who founded his eponymous series of budget-travel guides in 1957, is an influential voice in the travel world. And his warning to globe-trotters is a blow to the recession-stricken Arizona tourism industry.
Mayor Phil Gordon said he planned to call Frommer immediately and invite him to Phoenix to clear up any misperceptions that his city is not safe.
"I want to show him the perceptions of what he saw in the news is not a reflection of what Phoenix and the state are all about, " Gordon said.
Steve Moore, head of the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau, called Frommer an "icon of travel," but said he has no desire to weigh into the gun debate. He only wants to prove to Frommer it is safe to visit and live in Arizona.
"It demonstrates the power of perception. Here we've gone from a wonderful photo-op of the First Family overlooking the Grand Canyon to a protester with an assault weapon," said Moore, referring to the Obamas' outdoor excursion last weekend. "It's quite a juxtaposition."
In his blog, Frommer repeatedly raises the question of a national boycott of the state, something Arizona leaders are all too familiar with.
"The question is, should we all organize a travel boycott of Arizona until this tolerance of armed intimidation is ended, probably by an act of the Arizona legislature?" Frommer asked.
The NFL yanked the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona and Sun Devil Stadium after voters here narrowly shot down a ballot initiative to create a paid state holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Other groups joined in the boycott, refusing to hold their conventions in Phoenix.
Only after Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved the King holiday in 1992 did the NFL award the 1996 Super Bowl to Arizona.