Governor Ron DeSantis’ dogmatic approach to COVID-19 has led Florida to the brink. As the state reaches an untenable position in terms of hospitalizations, procurement of resources and other matters due to the pandemic, the Governor continues to act as if the one true victim of COVID-19 is him – having seen his gaudy approval ratings of 18 months ago now fall to similar levels of his predecessor Rick Scott (though it must be noted Scott was reelected and then won a US Senate seat despite low approval numbers, something Democrats always tend to forget when touting how GOP officials are “underwater”), DeSantis public persona indicates that he believes the victim of the pandemic is in fact him and is more determined to call out those he believes are victimizing him than doing anything tangible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
This whiny victimized tact from DeSantis is in spite of the fact that Florida has recorded more COVID-19 deaths in the last 15 days than the deaths of American servicemen (excluding military contractors) during the entire length of Afghanistan War from October 2001 to August 2021.
In the coming days, the cost to Florida’s tourism industry will be clearer. Advance bookings are already down at both Disney and on major airlines this winter, and I anticipate a slew of cuts to airline service to Florida will be coming in the next set of updates air carriers provide to the computerized reservation systems (we’ll have full details probably by the middle of next week here at TFS).
Florida’s current COVID spike is the worst any US state has experienced in terms of cases and marshaling of critical resources since New York’s wave of March & April 2020. Unlike New York, who admittedly did a poor job handling that, Florida has had time to prepare and failed to as June and July 2021 in Florida felt as carefree as the summer months leading to onset of World War I in Europe as described in Barbara Tuchman’s masterful book, The Guns of August.
June and July were a time of blissful ignorance and immature sloganeering from Governor DeSantis when preparation could have made for a devastating humanitarian disaster.
Domestic tourism and travel has sustained Florida’s economy the past year as foreign travel has largely disappeared and the cruise industry has been shut down. But now Governor DeSantis unwillingness to embrace even basic COVID mitigation efforts in addition to his meddling in private entities COVID policies has the state’s tourism taking a tumble.
In terms of travelers from abroad, while the US doesn’t appear on red lists of other western countries for COVID (yet at least), the reputation of Florida has taken a nasty tumble in the eyes of many abroad. Now seen as the embodiment of uncouth American disregard for science, public health and general welfare, many of the types that previously vacationed in this state probably will not in the future. Whether this is a fair generalization of Florida isn’t the point – perception is reality when it comes to matters of this nature.
To many Canadians in particular, Florida seem less attractive than before and I have seen a similar tone among many in Britain. Across Europe, Florida has developed a reputation as a cavalier place with little regard for public health and an unhealthy obsession with guns. As a Floridian, I have long tried to correct the record about any negative perceptions of the state, but quite frankly, I have lost that fight and it is something that now must be acknowledged – Florida’s perception is rotten both among foreigners and a certain type of American.
I’m not sure how deep Florida’s hole in terms of tourism and COVID will get, but it’s going to get much worse before it gets better. The reputation of the state may never recover which also puts into serious question the efforts to get businesses to relocate here (though let’s be honest, Florida’s lack of success with this despite massive tax incentives has been alarming for years) and the willingness of higher-dollar tourists and part-time residents this state depends on, to continue spending money here.
Time will tell and we will be keeping track of all these developments at TFS.