ORLANDO, Fla. — The NAACP, in conjunction with two other civil rights groups, recently issued a travel advisory for Florida, cautioning potential tourists about the state’s recent laws and policies that they claim are openly discriminatory towards African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals. This advisory joins similar warnings issued by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Equality Florida, highlighting the concerns surrounding the state’s treatment of marginalized communities.
The NAACP, a long-standing advocate for the rights of Black Americans, along with LULAC and Equality Florida, aims to raise awareness among travelers about the current state of affairs in Florida. The advisory, approved by the NAACP’s board of directors, emphasizes that before visiting Florida, tourists should understand that the state’s laws and policies devalue and marginalize the contributions and challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.
Requests for comment were sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office on Sunday morning, as he is expected to announce his run for the GOP presidential nomination later this week. Florida, renowned for its popularity among tourists, heavily relies on the tourism industry as one of its major job sectors. According to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion agency, over 137.5 million tourists visited Florida last year, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, visitors spent a staggering $98.8 billion in the state, supporting 1.6 million full-time and part-time jobs.
In response to the travel advisory, several Democratic mayors of Florida’s cities were swift to assert their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Mayor Ken Welch of St. Petersburg tweeted, “EVERYONE is always welcome and will be treated with dignity and respect,” a sentiment echoed by Mayor Jane Castor of Tampa.
The NAACP’s decision to issue the travel advisory comes in the wake of the DeSantis administration’s rejection of the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies course earlier this year. Moreover, DeSantis and Republican lawmakers have pushed forward with measures that ban diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in state colleges, as well as critical race theory. Additionally, they passed the Stop WOKE Act, which restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in schools and businesses.
LULAC’s warning for Hispanic travelers points to a new law that prohibits local governments from providing financial support to organizations issuing identification cards to undocumented immigrants, along with invalidating out-of-state driver’s licenses held by undocumented individuals. The law also mandates hospitals accepting Medicaid to include a citizenship question on intake forms, potentially dissuading undocumented immigrants from seeking medical care.
According to Lydia Medrano, LULAC’s vice president for the Southeast region, “The actions taken by Governor DeSantis have created a shadow of fear within communities across the state.”
Equality Florida’s travel advisory highlights recent efforts to limit LGBTQ+ discussions in schools, the removal of books featuring gay characters from school libraries, a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, new restrictions on abortion access, and a law allowing concealed carry of guns without a permit. In light of these measures, Equality Florida asserts that “Florida’s slate of laws and policies targeting basic freedoms and rights pose a serious risk to the health and safety of those traveling to the state.”
As tourists contemplate their travel plans, these travel advisories raise awareness about the contentious legislative landscape in Florida and its potential impact on marginalized communities.