More Conventions Are Steering Clear of Florida

Skift Take

Conventions are increasingly steering away from Florida. They are choosing not to support DeSantis’ divisive rhetoric by taking their groups and money elsewhere.

Politically charged and divisive laws impact conventions as groups pull out of destinations they find discriminatory. Organizations like Destinations International (DI) urge groups not to boycott, but instead to visit with lawmakers to make their views known. But many are saying, “no way,” and are canceling. How can meeting planners make sense of all the rhetoric?

Black Engineers Relocate Convention to Atlanta

The 50th annual convention of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) was scheduled to be in Florida in 2024. It would have brought up to 15,000 Orange County Convention Center visitors. Instead, it’ll be held in Atlanta. The millions of dollars in economic impact it would have generated will no longer be heading to the Sunshine State.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has a formal travel advisory in place stating, “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals. 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.”

That advisory was one of the reasons the NSBE decided to move its conference out of Florida. “As a Black organization working towards equity for Black STEM students and professionals, we stand in solidarity with efforts and advisories from Black legacy organizations like the NAACP, especially on matters that directly affect NSBE and our mission,” the NSBE wrote in a statement issued by national chairperson Avery Lane and CEO Janeen Uzzell. 

Nine Major Cancellations in Six Weeks 

Broward County continues to feel the impact of travel advisories on Florida. According to Stacy Ritter, they have just had their ninth cancellation in six weeks directly attributed to politics.

“People are paying a lot of attention to Florida right now. Although the people who make the policies may not understand the damage this is causing, as all they see is Florida’s record tourism, we will definitely see a downturn. They don’t understand group business, and we will see the impact this is having 2026 through 2030,” said Ritter.

A growing number of leading civil rights groups have issued travel advisories and warnings about visiting Florida. The state has enacted harmful laws toward women, minorities, immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ polarizing leadership.

In reaction to the travel advisories, Senator Rick Scott warned “socialists” and “communists” not to travel or move to Florida.

Technology Maps Risks to LGBTQ+ Travelers

Laws in each state are unique, and deciphering what is what can be a time-consuming process. Troop, a meeting location analysis platform, has addressed this challenge in their latest update. Planners can view levels of risk for the LGBTQ+ community when choosing a destination. This is in addition to data on travel time, sustainability, flight availability and estimated hotel cost.

“Troop has integrated an additional map layer indicating the risk by country, so meeting planners are aware of any risks, including those associated with the LGBTQ+ community at the planning stage, so an informed decision can be taken on where to meet,” said Dennis Vilovic, founder and co-CEO of Troop.

“The feedback has been really positive, so we are now looking ahead and committed to expanding our DE&I initiatives by partnering with diverse data providers and incorporating customers’ own data, thus ensuring the safety and inclusivity of all meeting attendees.”

Photo credit: Midjourney / Prompt: Florida beach hut painted in rainbow colors with the American flag