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Florida business leaders are trying to counter any negative effects amid recent travel advisories

Man in a suit, wearing glasses, motions with one hand while speaking.
Rogelio V. Solis/AP
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AP
FILE - Derrick Johnson speaks at a community meeting, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. Johnson, who lives in Jackson, said at another community meeting in the city on April 6, 2023, that the NAACP intends to sue the state of Mississippi over a law that will expand the role of a state-run police department in the majority-Black city. The measure was approved by the majority-white Mississippi House and Senate. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed it Friday, April 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Civil rights groups say Gov. DeSantis' policies are hostile toward people of color and the LGBTQ-plus community.

Just as the summer travel season starts in Florida, travel advisories issued by the NAACP, Human Rights Campaign and LGBTQ plus advocacy group Equality Florida, are advising travelers to be cautious.

What does this mean for business owners?

Amy Chibbaro owns Millie’ s Restaurant & Catering, in Daytona Beach. She just opened her second seafood restaurant in Ormond Beach as her business grew in recent years and became a popular spot for travelers.

“I’m concerned because Daytona is known for being the family vacation drive. You know, the beach that you can drive to," said Chibbaro.

“They can very easily decide to go Georgia or North Carolina or somewhere around the outer banks as well if they're driving."

Tourism officials say Florida broke a record last year with nearly 138 million visitors to the state. According to Visit Florida, tourists generated a $96 billion dollar economic impact in 2019—the year before the pandemic. Of that, more than half went towards small business owners.

While the travel warnings are not a boycott of Florida, they are a call to action, says state Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami-Dade).

“When you look at what has happened to this state over the past 2 to 3 years has been a total and complete disregard for black and brown communities,” said Jones.

He points to new laws that limit what can be taught about race, history and LGBTQ issues in schools.

'We are impacting families.'

Yet, the travel warnings may do more harm than good to minority businesses in Florida, says Big Bend’s Chamber of Commerce President Antonio Jefferson.

“While people may think that type of approach may be impactful, definitely in this time there are bigger issues that are out there that may have an impact on our economy," said Jefferson.

Jefferson's job is to promote and protect minority owned businesses across the Florida panhandle. He says they are struggling with inflation and if fewer people show up things could get worse.

“At the end of the day, we slow this economy down, we are impacting families and individuals throughout our state," said Jefferson. "As a business support organization, we could not support anything that would have an adverse impact on our economy.”

The Florida governor’s office calls the travel warnings a stunt, while Republican U.S. Senator Rick Scott has issued his own travel advisory against “socialists visiting Florida. ”

In a press release Tuesday, Scott said, “the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by Socialists and others who work in the Biden Administration.”

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Adrian Andrews
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