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Many in the tourism industry are unhappy with the direction Florida is taking in its restrictive policies toward marginalized communities, but they don't believe the solution is to avoid traveling to the state.

Some tourism groups that advocate on behalf of marginalized communities are expressing concern about the NAACP’s recent travel advisory that aims to discourage travel to Florida.

On May 20, the NAACP issued a formal travel advisory for Black, people of color and LGTBQ+ communities regarding what it called an “openly hostile” environment in the state.

Black travel and tourism advocacy groups, however, say the advisory will hurt the people it’s supposed to help. By deterring travel, Black travel and tourism businesses and underserved communities will lose out on visitors and spending, said Future of Black Tourism, Blacks in Travel & Tourism and the Black Travel Alliance in a joint statement on Monday.

“We believe there is a better way to make a statement to [Florida Governor Ron DeSantis] beyond a travel advisory petitioning African Americans and people of color to stay away from Florida,” the groups said. “Small Black businesses and marginalized communities certainly should not be the sacrificial lamb.” 

The group said the NAACP’s advisory “contradicts” its efforts to make the tourism industry more inclusive and that the organization should have consulted with them first before issuing the warning. 

“The NAACP’s travel advisory contradicts with the efforts of industry organizations and initiatives such as the Future of Black Tourism, Blacks in Travel & Tourism, Black Travel Alliance, and others that have been intentionally working to level the playing field for small Black businesses in Florida and across the country,” the group’s joint statement said.

The notice directly hurts family-owned hospitality businesses, a lot of which are Black-owned businesses, said Dana Young, president and CEO of Visit Florida, the state’s destination marketing organization. Young called the notice “incredibly irresponsible.”

Major tour operators have no plans to cease or scale back their travel operations in Florida. While condemning DeSantis’ policies, Intrepid Travel does not support boycotting travel to the state, said Matt Berna, president of the Americas of Intrepid, which provides day trips in Miami. Berna said the intention of the boycott is right, but it will impact the wrong people, such as BIPOC tourism businesses.

“Travel boycotts often isolate vulnerable people even more, including many of our close partner BIPOC owned businesses that rely on those tourist dollars and are by no means hostile in their approach to other BIPOC travelers,” said Berna.

The advisory was issued in response to DeSantis’ policies toward diversity, equity and inclusion and Black history education. The Republican governor signed legislation last week that banned all funding for diversity programs at the state’s public universities. Earlier this year, he banned AP courses on African-American studies.

“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 notice states. 

Visit Florida’s Young said the notice is “full of misinformation” and was “the weaponization of travel to score political points.” Visit Florida is a public-private partnership that receives funding from the state legislature.

The last time the NAACP issued a travel advisory was in 2017 after Missouri’s legislature passed a bill that made it difficult for employees to prove their protected class.

Other civil rights groups have also issued their own travel advisories about Florida. The League of United Latin American Citizens, the U.S.’s largest and oldest Hispanic organization, issued one last month in response to the governor signing into law a measure that aggressively targets illegal immigration.

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Tags: black travel, florida, intrepid travel, travel advisories, visit florida

Photo credit: The sand on the beaches of Pensacola, Florida. Photo Credit: Debbie Hudson on Unsplash Debbie Hudson / Unsplash

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