DeSantis’ 'hostile' laws have 'been absolutely devastating' to Florida’s convention business: report
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis' heap of passed laws this year, from a 6-week abortion ban to the controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill, are impacting a vital source of income for the Sunshine State — business conferences, CNN reports.
Per CNN, "In recent weeks, at least a dozen organizations have announced plans to either cancel or relocate their upcoming conferences scheduled to take place in Florida, making a statement by having their thousands of attendees and millions of dollars flow into other states deemed safer and more welcoming."
In May, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a travel advisory discouraging individuals from visiting the state "in direct response to Governor Ron DeSantis' aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools."
Last month, the Tallahassee Democrat reported "Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the oldest Black fraternity in the country" announced the relocation of "its 2025 conference from Orlando due to the 2024 Republican presidential hopeful's 'harmful, racist, and insensitive policies against the Black community.'"
Equality Florida co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Nadine Smith said, "It has been heartbreaking to see families fleeing; it has been absolutely devastating. Some of our best volunteers, strongest, most dedicated people have said, 'I can't, in good conscience stay where the governor has made this a hostile place for my kids and our family.' That said, there are a lot of people who are staying and fighting back, and I have nothing but respect for whichever decision people make."
She continued, "The thing about economic erosion, it’s like climate change: People go, 'Oh, we've still got tourists and people are still on the beaches.' Yeah, we do, and Florida is a beautiful place, but how do you tally what you're losing?” How do you tally what it means to have the best and the brightest students after graduation go elsewhere with their talent?"
CNN reports Smith also emphasized "that this is a 'gut-check moment' for businesses that have talked about diversity and that 'everyone's paying attention to who stands up and who doesn't."
The governor's press secretary Jeremy Redfern contends that DeSantis' legislation has nothing to do with the decline in business.
"This is nothing more than a media-driven stunt," he said, claiming the state is "experiencing record tourism."
Redfern added, "Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida's economy is booming, with Florida being the fastest-growing state and having the largest net domestic in-migration."
However, the state's "largest convention center" Sales and Marketing Manager Juan Lopez told the news outlet "Tampa hasn't seen any events cut bait. However, the organizations that are still hosting their conferences this year at the Tampa Convention Center 'have expressed to us their displeasure with legislation.'"
Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of the Broward County based Visit Lauderdale tourism marketing agency told CNN, "Unlike leisure business, which is a very short-term booking window [in weeks or months], conference business is long term. We're booking '26 to '30 now, so any impact that this might have is not going to be seen for years to come. That trickle from last year became a little stronger. I don't have a crystal ball, I wish I did, but I don't know what happens in the future if this becomes a thing, or if this is a blip. Nobody knows."
CNN's full report is available at this link.
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