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Florida’s Political, Social Climate Forcing This Conference to Move to San Francisco

Amid growing concerns over Florida’s political climate, the National Black Nurses Association has pulled its 2024 conference out of Florida and is moving the event to San Francisco.

The six-day National Institute and Conference — which is scheduled from July 23-28 — will be held at the Marriott Marquis hotel at 780 Mission St., a representative of the nonprofit group, which is based in Maryland, confirmed to the Chronicle on Friday.

The representative did not immediately respond to an inquiry regarding how many of the association’s members will attend the conference, and neither did the Marriott Marquis.

The conference was originally slated to take place at the Diplomat Beach Resort, a Hilton-branded property, in Hollywood, Fla. In a statement issued in October, the group explained that its decision to pull out of its commitment followed a survey of its membership, which expressed concerns about the current political and social climate in the state.

“The passage of anti-Black policies and laws, which have taken a destructive position to erase and silence Black history, and restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools, together with the NAACP travel ban, and the recent senseless, racially motivated, hate-fueled murders of three innocent Black Americans in Jacksonville, Florida has created a hostile dangerous environment in the state,” the association said.

“Thus, as a Black identified multigenerational professional nursing association, we cannot risk the safety or well-being of our members or subject them to unpredictable, unknown, and unconscionable threats to their life, liberty, and first amendment rights.”

The association represents 308,000 Black registered nurses, licensed vocational and practical nurses, nursing students and retired nurses from the United States, Eastern Caribbean and Africa, with 114 chartered chapters across 34 states.

In its statement, the group said that it attempted to reschedule the conference to a later year, “when conditions would hopefully be safer for Black-identifying groups like ours,” but that its negotiations with the Diplomat Beach Resort were unsuccessful.

Other major groups catering to Black professionals have also announced that they will be moving their annual conventions out of Florida, including the Fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha and the National Society of Black Engineers, which had conventions scheduled in the state in 2025 and 2024, respectively.

The cancellations are in part motivated by the recent censoring of teaching Black history in grades K-12 by Florida’s education board. In May, the NAACP labeled Florida as “openly hostile” and issued a travel advisory against the state.

As San Francisco hotels continue to recover from major revenue losses sparked by the pandemic, the association’s change of plans will come as a boon to the Marriott Marquis and surrounding businesses.

Per an update on the state of the city’s economy released by the San Francisco Controller’s Office earlier this month, city hotel revenues in October were still hovering at about 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

Even though the city’s hotel occupancy, which was devastated by the pandemic, reached 65.8% this year and demand for hotel rooms in the city was up by 9.2% year-to-date as of September, according to data provided by San Francisco Travel, the slow recovery of corporate travel remains a major pain point for San Francisco’s hotels, which are now increasingly competing for leisure travelers.

Moreover, according to 2024 projections by SF Travel, the Moscone Center, the city’s premier convention venue that’s located a block away from the Marriott Marquis at 747 Howard St., is expected to host 21 events accounting for 426,951 hotel room nights next year. That’s down 34% compared with 2023.

With revenues not yet where they should be, some hotels will feel the pressure of their debt in the coming years: Close to two dozen loans tied to local hotels are coming due over the next two years.

But there are bright spots, like the association’s planned San Francisco stay and Salesforce’s announcement last month Dreamforce, the annual conference that the company hosts, wll return to San Francisco next year, despite threats that it may not.

Source: Sfchronicle