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OPINION

Why are Taxpayer-Funded Tourism Agencies Promoting Radical LGBTQ+ and Progressive Causes?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Right in Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s own state, government tourism agencies are promoting radical LGBTQ+ causes, including taxpayer-funded Visit Florida. Visit Orlando paid the leftist PR company MMGY for a "study" that rebuked DeSantis' policies and the laws of Florida. New York-based MMGY is one of the largest PR companies for tourism offices in the country, and also one of the most woke. 

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MMGY Global thanked Visit Orlando and others, including Destination DC and Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, for financial contributions to the study. The study asked LGBTQ+ individuals whether “state policies related to their LGBTQ+ identity greatly impact their decision to travel.” It found that 52% said yes. Stirring up these types of views does nothing to help tourism in red states like Florida, it generates hostility and will just backfire on efforts to promote tourism there. 

Visit Florida’s agenda for March has just one item listed on it: “LGBTQIA+ FloridaEvents, Pride festivals, bars, beaches and destinations.” There’s no semblance of balance, no conservative or Christian events, those types of activities have been scrubbed clean from tourism agencies. One of the partnerships prominently featured on MMGY’s website is the “Love and Lipliner” event at the James New York hotel featuring “some of NYC’s biggest drag stars.” 

Visit Florida spent $863,720.58 on three PR agencies between June 2021 and July 2022; Development Counsellors International, Gosh PR, and Hayworth Public Relations. According to the website of Development Counsellors International (DCI), one of its most important values is wokism; that is to "champion equity [and] inclusion." Among its priorities are to "be inclusive" and to "elevate diverse voices." 

Yet DCI has numerous government clients in red areas including Miami and Orlando; Gilbert, Arizona (a very conservative town which has come under fire recently for its leadership going woke); North Dakota; Chattanooga; Wake County, North Carolina; Louisville, Kentucky; San Antonio and Sugar Land, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; St. Louis, Missouri and Mississippi, including Jackson. 

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Gosh PR, which isn’t an American company, supported the Lonely Planet campaign in 2021, “celebrating commitment to community, diversity and sustainability across the world,” “pioneering sustainable practices” and providing “progressive solutions.” 

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, a department of Pinellas County Government in Florida, also uses MMGY.  Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) gave MMGY an award for its work on the campaign Visit St. Pete/Clearwater Makes a Splash at Super Bowl LV. 

On page 23 of its annual report, Visit Florida goes all-in with the green agenda and says it wants to use travel to address climate change: "Can Florida and the tourism industry be forces for change? In many ways, we already are."

Travel Texas is listed as a client of MMGY, even though Texas is another red state. South Dakota used to be listed as a client, but perhaps to Governor Kristi Noem’s credit, it is no longer on the list. In 2021, HSMAI gave MMGY an award for its "Great Places Are Waiting" COVID-19 Campaign Strategy and ThanksGIFing Social Media Campaign on behalf of South Dakota. 

Travel Texas and Visit Florida reportedly funded MMGY’s woke study examining the “intersectionality” of “LatinX” tourism — although Visit Florida’s name was later removed. 

Kansas City, Missouri also contracts with MMGY through its Visit KC. HSMAI gave MMGY an award for its Run It Back Home Super Bowl Campaign for the city. 

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The travel industry is led by the Society of American Travel Writers, which is incredibly woke. Awards are given to writers based on how woke they are, and they are told to use a list of woke words in their writing like LatinX. 

Visit Florida's annual report shows on page 17 that more tourists come from red states than blue states. Florida’s main tourism comes from seven red states, three purple states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia), and just five blue states. So why the focus on New York PR and leftist causes?

Why are multiple red states continuing to contract with woke PR companies? With the left canceling so many businesses now, it’s insulting to pass over conservative PR companies who no doubt could really use the work due to being blacklisted over their politics. 

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