Shining a Light on Everyone “Under the Sun”

Skift Take

Divisive legislation means that states and cities across the U.S. are facing of boycotts and travel advisories. They are also reconsidering what they need to do to keep attracting meetings and events.

Stacy Ritter is president and CEO of Visit Lauderdale, overseeing sales and marketing development for leisure, international, sports, events, and group sales. She champions multicultural tourism and LGBT+ advocacy, whilst aiming to create a culture of inclusion. Ritter didn’t begin her career in the destination sector. She trained as an attorney and spent eight years in the Florida House of Representatives, nearly ten years on the Broward County Board of County Commissioners, and one year as mayor.

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Florida Travel Advisories

In response to Florida Governor Ron DeStantis’ bills, meetings and conventions are being negatively impacted. At least seven groups chose to move their meetings away from Florida due to the divisive legislation. State travel advisories from the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Equality Florida, and the Florida Immigrant Coalition are in place. Many more are likely to have made similar decisions, with some planners saying that they have clients who have requested not to have RFPs sent to Florida. 

The negative impact these bills can have on the meeting industry may not be apparent to policymakers as Florida is currently experiencing a period of record tourism. 

To Boycott or Not to Boycott

The question remains as harmful legislation comes into effect in cities and states across the U.S. Should planners and other industries boycott those destinations? For Ritter and Visit Lauderdale, boycotting is not the answer, even if they fully appreciate the seriousness and severity of these bills. By boycotting a destination, you are negatively impacting businesses that share your values. This impacts specifically those businesses owned by minorities, women, or the LGBTQ+ community that require tourism to stay in business. 

Finding organizations within the destination that align with your goals and values is a positive alternative to boycotting. It’s an alternative that ensures your dollars go to the right people. Furthermore, destinations that don’t agree with the policies being passed at the city or state level, should continue to highlight their own values.

Welcoming All

Just over 50 years ago, Fort Lauderdale was a quiet beach town. It has since evolved into a vibrant city with international appeal that focuses on being inclusive and diverse. Broward County, of which Fort Lauderdale is the largest city, is home to two million people. The county represents 170 nations and 147 languages. ‘Everyone Under the Sun’ is the organization’s tagline, which stresses that everyone is welcome.

Convention Centre Renovation

On three previous occasions, Broward County has tried to build a hotel attached to its convention center. Plans were finally approved after the fourth attempt, and work is underway. This 801-room Omni hotel will open in late 2025. This is in addition to the completed west expansion, which now has 350,000 square feet of exhibition space. There is also the east expansion which will feature the largest ballroom in the Southeast. Businesses book meetings and events years in advance, which is the core business of these hotels. With the expansion, the city will be able to attract larger groups and conferences. 

Future Female Leaders

For females aiming to succeed in the workplace, support from all genders, as is mentorship, is important. For female Boomers, their mentors were predominately men, and they often didn’t achieve leadership roles until their fifties or sixties. Women need to be better at self-promotion to continue to thrive and develop as they aspire. Older generations can show them how to do that, expertly mentoring them toward achieving their goals.

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