Florida has been long-known as the USA’s playground.
The Sunshine State promises families a fun-filled holiday. Whether it be soaking in the rays by the beach, searching for seashells at Sanibel Island or visiting one of the many theme parks, this is a holiday destination for the whole family!
Middle class ‘tin can tourists’ and retirees from the East Coast made up the majority of visitors prior to the opening of Walt Disney World.
In 2013, 94.7 million visitors flocked to Florida!! hehee
Yes, tourism is an essential part of the state’s identity; it is Florida’s number-one industry.
But what happens when a state relies so heavily on tourists? What are the consequences of this?
In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had a huge impact on Florida’s economy. Although the spill only affected the Panhandle beaches, visitors kept away from Florida’s entire Gulf Coast.
It has been estimated that the spill contributed to US$3 billion lost in tourism-related spending. This had a large impact on small and big businesses within the state.
Florida is expected to be the state most likely hit by a hurricane. Florida also needs to prepare for impacts of sea level rise. Hence, having an economy so heavily focused on tourism may be problematic when unexpected environmental issues arise.
Furthermore, Florida should focus on supporting its immigrant community. A large proportion are undocumented immigrants and thus cannot work legally nor earn a higher education degree.
Florida’s essence is a happy holiday destination brimming with sunshine. It is expected that environmental issues will arise and deter tourism.
The state needs to ensure the immigrant population are properly educated and have jobs. This will mean that the state’s economy is more secure, in case the tourism industries’ sun, sets.
Essentialising places, clouds the multiple identities and underlying issues that are not visible to the average tourist.
Travelling smarter means questioning the representations and marketing of the places we visit.
[Travelling smarter tip #2: Respect the environment and think about your environmental impact. Try to reduce your carbon footprint e.g. perhaps if you have some time, volunteer to plant some trees or opt for walking instead of catching a taxi. This will help prevent further damage to places like Florida due to climate change.]