Florida Travel Warnings Issued, Disney Guests Could Be Putting Themselves at “Serious Risk”

in Walt Disney World

Two young female and two young male Guests enjoy Magic Kingdom

Credit: Disney

Politically speaking, Florida is going through a turbulent time – so much so that three civil rights groups issued warnings to tourists over the weekend.

Since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis assumed office in 2019, the state has passed (and tried to pass) a series of bills concerning minority groups.

Governor Ron DeSantis Claims New Bill ‘Born’ Out of Disney’s ‘Arrogance'

In 2022, a Florida judge blocked DeSantis’ effort to pass the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act (“Stop WOKE Act”), which would let parents sue school districts teaching critical race theory. That same year, he passed the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act – more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law – which was infamously criticized by the Walt Disney Company. This triggered DeSantis’ ongoing legal battle with Disney (specifically Walt Disney World), which has caused some to accuse the governor of being “anti-business” and financially sabotaging his own state.

The past year has also seen DeSantis “expand pro-life protections,” sign a new bill that allows Florida residents to carry concealed handguns without a permit, force the removal of books with gay characters from school libraries, ban gender-affirming care for minors, and require hospitals accepting Medicaid – a program providing health insurance to individuals with limited income – to include a citizenship question on its forms.

In the wake of Florida’s shifting landscape, the NAACP issued a travel advisory over the weekend – joining the League of United Latin American Citizens and Equality Florida (LULAC) in warning the state’s tourists that its recent laws and policies are “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis giving a speech
Credit: ABC News

Issued on Saturday, the NAACP’s warning tells tourists that they should understand that Florida “devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

Equality Florida warned 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.” Meanwhile, LULAC declared that the “actions taken by Governor DeSantis have created a shadow of fear within communities across the state.”

Florida hit a record high of 137.6 million tourists in 2022. Many visitors to the state are there to visit Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, and the other properties in the country’s theme park capital. The state’s tourism economy brought in an estimated $98.8 billion last year.

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom
Credit: Disney

The NAACP’s warning was swiftly followed by messages of diversity and inclusion from some of Florida’s democratic leaders. Mayor Ken Welch of St. Petersburg and Mayor Jane Castor of Tampa both issued pledges to treat all visitors with “dignity and respect.”

While DeSantis continues to pass bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community, Walt Disney World plans to host the world’s biggest LGBTQ+ conference in September. Universal Orlando also announced that it will donate 100% of the profits of its “Love is Universal” collection to LGBTQ+ charities.

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