In an unsettling revelation for Florida’s tourism sector, several event organizers have chosen to pull out their planned conventions from the Sunshine State, leading to concerns about the future of this crucial industry. Organizers cite the recent wave of controversial policies instituted by Governor Ron DeSantis as the main cause behind these cancellations. Broward County, which includes the Fort Lauderdale area, has seen the withdrawal of over half a dozen scheduled conventions, according to South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Significant Losses Incurred
These cancellations have not only affected the convention sector but have also induced significant economic losses for local businesses such as hotels and restaurants. Events, including the Supreme Council of America Inc., Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite Masons’ meeting, and the 2024 National Family and Community Engagement and Community Schools Conference, have been canceled, which has resulted in losses of over 2,000 hotel room bookings. The canceled events have had a domino effect, leading to a significant decline in the revenue generated by restaurants and tourist attractions as fewer visitors arrive.
The Impact on State Revenue
Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond revealed that the tourism revenue for the state has been decreasing. “In April, it was a small decrease. In May it was about a 7% decrease. It meant our collections this May were about $2 million less than May of 2022,” said Diamond. This dip in tourism dollars, especially in the spring season when tourism usually sees a surge, is yet another blow for the state.
Associations Align with their Values
Local event organizers and several national organizations have expressed their disapproval of Florida’s contentious policies. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP), for instance, decided to move its annual conference from the Hyatt Regency Miami to Chicago due to the ‘escalating waves of hostile actions and legislation’ coming out of Florida. Laxmi Ramasubramanian, the ACSP president, mentioned in a letter to its members that the decision aligns with the organization’s values statement.
Concerns Among Interest Groups
In her letter, Ramasubramanian also expressed significant concerns from the ACSP interest groups regarding travel to Florida. “While no place can be 100% safe, Florida this fall did not feel like the best place to gather for our annual conference,” she wrote. These concerns come amidst recent travel advisories issued by organizations representing Black, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ communities in Florida, citing ‘open hostility’ manifested in recently passed laws.
Some Areas Spared So Far
While these cancellations have affected many regions in Florida, some areas have been spared so far. The Tampa Bay area, for example, has not seen any convention cancellations due to the political climate, as per officials. Kirstin Albert, the communications coordinator for the Tampa Convention Center, confirmed that they hadn’t experienced any contracted client cancellations. Similarly, a spokesperson for Visit Tampa Bay, the tourism marketing organization for Tampa and Hillsborough County, reported no convention withdrawals from the area.
Future of Florida’s Tourism Sector
The state’s tourism sector is a significant contributor to Florida’s economy. The recent series of event cancellations poses a concerning question about the future of the industry. The coming months will undoubtedly reveal the extent of the impact as more organizations make decisions about their upcoming conventions in the state.