Broward County tourism officials say that financial losses are continuing to mount as conventions once scheduled for Fort Lauderdale have opted to go someplace else.
The tally now stands at 14, with four of those conventions backing out in August alone, according to Visit Lauderdale, the agency formerly known as the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Broward’s tourism arm said the lost conventions could have brought hotel stays to Fort Lauderdale and its surrounding cities, which also meant money spent on restaurants and attractions.
The updated list now includes the National Sales Network Conference, whose founder and CEO emailed the county Monday: “Moving forward, we will not consider conducting any future conferences in the state of Florida given the Governor’s statement that slavery was good for Black people.”
And the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology wasn’t planning its annual convention until 2028, but backed out last week, citing in an email: “At the moment, we aren’t able to consider any Florida cities because of the political issues around women’s health and the added challenges with higher education there.”
It adds to the laundry list of groups including the Chicago-based American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, which had planned a 3,000-person conference in Fort Lauderdale in 2026, and cited the “unfriendly political environment in Florida.” The Washington, D.C.-based Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, which was scheduled to come to Fort Lauderdale in January, diverted to New Orleans instead because of what’s perceived as anti-migrant policies. And the Atlanta-based aParent Miracles Foundation for this November is headed to Texas instead after the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Florida “in direct response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ attempts to erase Black history, and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools,” the organizer wrote the county’s tourism office.
Last month, the Tom Joyner Foundation, and the 1,700 hotel rooms it wanted, disappeared, too. “If this were about economics, that would be one thing, but what is at the core of the issue from the above, is fear for the safety of African-American, LGBTQ+ and a smaller portion of even Latino students and others traveling to Florida to participate in what is a national event,” an organizer wrote the tourism office. The agency also cited the state’s new permitless gun carry laws, which allow people to carry concealed weapons without training or a permit, as another reason to skip the Sunshine State. That legislation was hailed by the NRA.
The emails were obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel in a public records request.
Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of Visit Lauderdale, Broward County’s tourism promotion arm, said Tuesday she was “keeping a careful eye on the trend, which isn’t great.”
“It’s most troubling because of the economic impact which translates into Broward County residents’ jobs,” saying an estimated 10% of Broward’s jobs were directly or indirectly tied to tourism.
Ritter’s agency is trying to offset the damage with advertising efforts to show Florida, at least the southern end, is welcoming. On Tuesday, they successfully appealed to the Broward County commission to spend nearly $800,000 — money raised from a tourism hotel tax — to participate in the January 2024 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
Chief among the float participants considered to perform: Drag queens.
Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash