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Fla. businesses aim to counter any backlash from the governor's conservative policies


It's Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. And as you might imagine, it's big business in Florida. This weekend, though, some businesses that depend on tourism are worried after the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign issued travel advisories. Adrian Andrews with member station WFSU explains.

ADRIAN ANDREWS, BYLINE: Just as the summer travel season starts in Florida, civil rights groups are taking aim at Governor Ron DeSantis' attacks on diversity initiatives, African American studies and LGBTQ rights. The NAACP is advising travelers to be cautious.

AMY CHIBBARO: I'm concerned because Daytona is known for being the family vacation, driving - you know, the beach that you can drive to.

ANDREWS: Amy Chibbaro owns Millie's Restaurant and 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.

CHIBBARO: They can very easily decide to just go to Georgia or North Carolina or, you know, somewhere on the Outer Banks as well, too, if they're driving.

ANDREWS: The travel warnings do not call for a boycott or ban of Florida, but they are a call to action, says Democratic State Representative Shevrin Jones.

SHEVRIN JONES: When you look at what has happened in this state over the past two to three years, it has been a totally complete disregard for Black and brown communities.

ANDREWS: He points to new laws that limit what can be taught about African American history and what books can be in schools. Tourism officials say Florida broke a record last year with nearly 138 million visitors to the state. And if that number falls, minority businesses in Florida could also take a hit, says Antonio Jefferson. He runs the Big Bend Chamber of Commerce.

ANTONIO JEFFERSON: While people may think that 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.

ANDREWS: Jefferson's job is to promote and protect minority-owned businesses across the Florida panhandle. He says there are other ways to engage in the political process.

JEFFERSON: At the end of the day, we slow this economy down, we're impacting families, individuals throughout our state. We could not support anything that would have an adverse impact on our economy.

ANDREWS: Governor Ron DeSantis calls the travel advisories a total farce, while mayors of big Democratic cities said they embrace diversity and welcome everyone, regardless of state policy.

For NPR News, I'm Adrian Andrews in Tallahassee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Andrews

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