New Florida Laws Are Bad for Meetings Business

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Skift Take

The NAACP is the latest group to issue a formal Florida travel advisory in response to a Governor Ron DeSantis bill. The LGBTQ+ and the Latino communities have done the same, and now meetings and events are canceling.

The board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has issued a travel advisory for Florida in response to a slew of recent legislation passed under Governor Ron DeSantis. This comes as DeSantis is planning to file paperwork in the next few days in his bid to run for president. 

“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color,” the NAACP advisory states. 

DeSantis has also come under fire this week as Disney announced it is canceling its plans to build a new $1 billion campus in Orlando. He has been battling with Disney since its president criticized his “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

These actions are impacting the state’s meeting and convention business. Orlando is one of the top meeting destinations in the country, continuously ranked as number one by Cvent.

More Travel Warnings and Advisories

This isn’t the only Florida travel advisory in place. On May 17, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the nation’s largest and oldest Hispanic organization, issued its own Florida travel advisory. This was in response to Senate Bill 1718, an anti-illegal immigration measure DeSantis signed into law last week.

These groups join LGBTQ civil rights group Equality Florida and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, which also has state travel advisories in place in response to four bills DeSantis signed into law that impact the LGBTQ community. 

“As an organization that has spent decades working to improve Florida’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place to live, work and visit, it is with great sadness that we must respond to those asking if it is safe to travel to Florida or remain in the state as the laws strip away basic rights and freedoms,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida‘s executive director. “While losing conferences, and top students who have written off Florida threatens lasting damage to our state, it is most heartbreaking to hear from parents who are selling their homes and moving because school censorship, book bans, and health care restrictions have made their home state less safe for their children.” 

Members Boycott Conferences

BPC, a conference organized by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), is going ahead in Orlando May 21-24, but Kathryn Bennett, a 40 under 40 APMP award winner, will not be attending. “Hosting a professional conference in Floria right now amounts to discrimination. And, frankly, any efforts to celebrate queer culture in Florida is not only disingenuous on the part of any professional organization but could also lead to legal consequences. If queer people can’t be there, no one should be there,” Bennett wrote on LinkedIn.  

Another conference that has come under fire is the American Translators Association (ATA), scheduled for October in Miami. Cara Piraino, a member, wrote on LinkedIn, “As a proud member myself and someone who greatly enjoyed last year’s conference, I think it’s time to have a conversation about whether holding the conference in Florida is the right idea.”

In response, the association stated, “At this time, we do not have the ability to change locations for ATA64 per the contract made several years prior, but our organizers will do everything in their power to ensure the safety and comfort of our attendees.”

Boycotts May Be Counterproductive

Travel boycotts and bans are counterproductive, according to Jack Johnson, chief advocacy officer of Destinations International (DI). Although boycotts are usually well-intentioned, Johnson advocates for going to the destination instead and getting directly involved in the cause. 

“The way to make political change is to go there and raise money, register voters, and help fight alongside those who align with your position,” said Johnson

LGBTQ groups are canceling events in reaction to these new bills. One of the biggest, Pride on the River, due to take place in September in Tampa was canceled. In addition, the Port St. Lucie Pride parade and the St. Cloud LGBTQ+ Pride festival were both canceled over these laws. 

Photo credit: Oladimeji Odunsi / Unsplash