Close to 40 percent of meeting professionals responding to a recent MeetingsNet survey say that recent travel advisories issued for Florida by the NAACP and other organizations make their organization less likely to book events in that state. Another 46 percent believe that the advisories will not affect their site-selection decisions, while 14 percent of respondents are unsure.
The NAACP travel advisory contends that the policies of Governor Ron Desantis are hostile toward African Americans, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and free speech, and asks residents of Florida and visitors to the state to speak up and advocate for civil liberties and principles of diversity and inclusion.
MeetingsNet polled readers on May 31 via its MeetingsNet Today newsletter and received 202 responses. The responses came from 176 meeting professionals—from associations (35.6 percent), corporations (26.7 percent), and third parties (24.8 percent)—as well as 26 suppliers (12.9 percent).
In addition to asking whether the NAACP advisory would affect respondents’ destination choices, we wanted to understand more generally how social issues influence readers’ approach to site selection. Respondents were given a series of statements and asked to select all that aligned with their organization’s site-selection practices:
We do not take politics into consideration when selecting meeting destinations: 34.2%
We consider the social views/values of our attendees and stakeholders, and seek destinations that support those views/values: 33.7%
We conduct too many meetings across the country to consider politics/social issues in the site selection process: 12.4%
We have occasionally made destination decisions for meetings based on politics/social issues. The advisories in Florida are likely to affect our choices: 24.3%
We have occasionally made destination decisions for meetings based on politics/social issues. The advisories in Florida are unlikely to affect our choices: 11.9%
Meeting/travel boycotts are ineffective and can harm small businesses and hospitality workers: 36.1%
Meeting/travel boycotts are one way that organizations can live their values and support their attendees’ preferences: 24.8%
Meetings Association Response
The NAACP’s travel advisory is not a ban or a boycott of Florida, a point emphasized by the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals in its response to the advisory.
NCBMP commends the advisory but also believes that “travel is a personal decision, rooted in hospitality, curated experiences, and a vast ecosystem of dollars generated within a community. We also believe that it is wise for Black, Brown, and LGBTQ organizations to be aware of destinations that have advanced polices that are unwelcoming.”
NCBMP’s response includes advice for groups that have already contracted a convention in Florida as well as recommendations for those who are considering using a destination in the state. Among NCBMP’s suggestions are a number of questions for convention RFPs:
• Ask about the demographics of the DMO and hotels, including C-suite and board of directors (if applicable).
• Ask about their current diverse-supplier spend, specifically with Black and Brown businesses.
• Ask how their organization has expressed interest in welcoming Black and Brown visitors.
• Ask if they are members of NCBMP.
• Ask for the DMO’s full DE&I program overview.