by Matt Alderton | May 17, 2019

After two years of studying the economic impact of travel bans and boycotts, Destinations International has just released a new toolkit to help meeting planners deal with them. The move is particularly timely, coming on the heels of Alabama's controversial passage of legislation banning abortion, which was quickly followed by talk of possible business-related boycotts of the state.

"Travel boycotts and bans have become increasingly popular tools for public officials, corporate leaders and grassroots activists to undermine the passage of controversial legislation," DI noted in a press release. While not taking sides on the issues involved in the bans, the organization noted that the financial effects of same "vary by destination and length but add up to the billions." What's more, DI said, "The weaponization of travel through meeting cancellations -- and more broadly, the banning or boycotting of destinations -- can negatively impact the local economy and hurt innocent bystanders, such as travel industry employees, in the process." 

DI president and CEO Don Welsh was blunt about how he and his organization feels about such actions: "Destinations International not only opposes travel boycotts and bans, we want to defeat them."

DI began studying the issue in the wake of both the 2015 travel boycott of Indiana following passage of its Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allowed businesses to deny goods and services to gay couples over religious objections, and the 2016 travel boycott of North Carolina over its infamous "bathroom bill." Both destinations eventually backed down in the face of ruinous financial impacts, Indeed, DI reported that 43 percent of travelers and 43 percent of meeting planners said they think travel bans and boycotts are effective at stimulating policy changes in targeted jurisdictions. 

Given all the hot buttons, DI's new toolkit attempts to present alternatives for meeting groups that want to preserve their reputation without hurting local businesses and employees. Many of the suggestions came from planners themselves, including:

• Work with local stakeholders to ensure discriminatory policies will not be enforced during their meeting; 
• Create a partnership between local stakeholders to show support for inclusivity;
• Add a session focused on advocacy to the meeting agenda;
* Donate time, money or services to relevant advocacy organizations;
• Schedule a lobbying day;
• Organize a letter-writing campaign, and
• Speak against a disputed policy through social media channels.

Along with alternatives to bans and boycotts, the toolkit also gives planners tips for risk planning and preparation, crisis-response advice, and sample messages and communications to use with attendees and the media.