Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s war against The Walt Disney Co. has impacted the state’s biggest tourism attraction and is leading to a broader backlash that could seriously hurt the state’s economy.
DeSantis, a right-wing candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, singled out Disney because of its LGBTQ+ values and inclusivity, which he disagrees with. In response, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has seized the opportunity to embrace Disney for its diversity, making his state a more attractive option for Disney’s future investments.
Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek opposed DeSantis’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, triggering the clash between the company and the governor.
Although Florida is home to other left-leaning companies, they have not explicitly targeted DeSantis. As part of his “war on woke” campaign, DeSantis took control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the special taxing district for the Disney resort’s land, resulting in legal battles and strained relations with the entertainment giant.
In May, Disney made headlines when it canceled a $1 billion project to construct an office campus and transfer 2,000 employees to Orlando. The company also pulled the plug on a promising Star Wars hotel that had only been operational at Disney World for a short time.
These actions were followed by pointed remarks from Disney CEO Bob Iger, who criticized DeSantis, branding him as “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
Disney has turned its focus to a new endeavor known as Disneyland Forward. The program is aimed at rejuvenating its two theme parks in Anaheim, California. The company envisions Disneyland Forward as a catalyst for significant growth, projecting an annual revenue of $253 million and the creation of more than 2,200 new jobs.
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The consequences of DeSantis’s actions are not limited to the Disney dispute. Florida’s political climate, characterized by controversial policies concerning LGBTQ rights and race, has led to a growing number of conventions and conferences avoiding the state altogether. At least five groups have canceled or moved their events out of Orange County and Fort Lauderdale over concerns about the state’s policies.
Florida’s tourism industry is displaying broader signs of decline, particularly in the Orlando area. The Orange County comptroller’s office reported a 6.7% decrease in tourist development tax collections for May compared to the previous year, marking the second consecutive decrease since February 2021.
Hotel occupancy in the Orlando area during May was down by 2.5% year over year. Analysts also point out that crowds in Walt Disney World over the July 4 holiday were the lowest they’ve been in nearly a decade, a trend also affecting rival theme park Universal Orlando Resort. Factors contributing to the decline include families transitioning away from theme parks as the pent-up demand following the COVID-19 pandemic subsided and visitors are displeased about widespread price increases at Disney’s theme parks.
The combination of political controversies and other factors is creating a challenging environment for local businesses and officials who rely on the thriving tourism sector. The implications extend beyond the Disney-DeSantis feud and raise questions about the long-term sustainability of Florida’s tourism-driven economy.
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This article DeSantis’ ‘War on Woke’ Backfires As Disney Ends $1 Billion Spending in Florida – Controversial Policies Spur Convention Cancellations, Tourism Downturn, and Struggles for Local Businesses originally appeared on Benzinga.com
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