Florida Losing Conventions; CVBs Respond

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As more groups cancel or take Florida off their potential site list, CVBs are responding by pointing out that much of the damage from these moves will affect workers.

As Florida continues to lose more meetings and conventions (most recently the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the country’s oldest intercollegiate Black fraternity) due to new laws and policies some groups view as anti-LGBTQ/anti-trans, anti-immigrant and otherwise divisive or antithetical to their core members and mission, destination leaders are speaking out about the impact these boycotts will have.

“Orlando has always been and will continue to be a diverse, welcoming and inclusive community,” Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, responded in an article about the boycotts in the Orlando Sentinel. “As the top travel destination in the country and longstanding leader in the travel industry, our community has a history of welcoming all to our destination.”

Destination International is urging groups not to boycott or cancel, but to instead bring their concerns up to state lawmakers. “Destinations International continues to oppose the use of travel boycotts or bans no matter how well intentioned. We believe that boycotts and bans are ineffective at creating political change and have been shown to hurt the tourism industry disproportionately,” said Jack Johnson, chief advocacy of Destination International.

“From our initial research, we found that the effects of travel boycotts and bans vary by destination and length but can be substantial. This tends to be not from an overall decrease in visitation but a decrease in high spending visitors. Because overall travel numbers are strong, the travel boycott appears to political leaders as not to be working. The initial impact of the boycott hits those areas that host meetings, conventions and special events and those areas tend not to be represented by the political leaders who enacted the policies that are being objected to are able to make the changes sought. Long-term, our research shows that states targeted by a boycott will receive reputational damage on an average of 11 percent and as high as 36 percent. But by the time that is identified and the results seen, several years will have passed.”

In an article in the Sun Sentinel, Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of Visit Lauderdale, pointed out that cancellations are economically harmful to South Florida, which is “not doing anything different than we’ve been doing for the last 30 years… We saw in 2020 what happens when visitors stay away — people lose their jobs.  By not coming here, the residents of our county, whose values align with these organizations, get hurt. Minority, women and LGBTQ+ businesses rely on visitors for their existence. Staying away hurts those very people.”

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