Boycott `Fizzled,' Florida Tourism Up: Primate's (World Relief Development) Fund Defends Decision

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Toronto

Canadians seem to be ignoring the boycott of Florida called by Canadian churches and unions.

Tourism was actually up in Florida last year, recent statistics show, and analysts predict another boost this winter season. The boycott had "no effect" on tourism last year, said Craig Roberts, a public relations representative with the Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation in Toronto.

"It sort of fizzled, to be honest," he said. "I had a clipping service here and I even went so far as to go into an Oxfam (Bridgehead) store to ask about it. The manager didn't know what I was talking about." (Oxfam was a key organizer of the boycott.)

Florida continues to draw Canadians, Mr. Roberts said, because of its reputation for bargain holidays. With fares like $77 for a one-way ticket, the state expects tourism to increase this year to 1.8 million visitors from Canada. Canadians last year spent $2 billion in Florida.

"It's pretty hard to resist," said Mr. Roberts. "You're up here in the winter, and you think `Well, I really do support that protest, but we want a winter vacation'. The bottom line is the dollar-the economic value of a trip to Florida."

More than a million Canadians visited South Florida last year, a 15 per cent increase from 1995.

The Florida boycott, announced last August, was launched in response to U.S. policy on Cuba, especially the Helms-Burton law, which reinforces the 30-year-old U.S. embargo of Cuba and penalizes foreign corporations and their employees doing business in both Cuba and the U.S.

The Anglican Church of Canada is not specifically involved in the boycott, but the last Council of General Synod meeting, passed a resolution encouraging Canadian Anglicans to consider vacation destinations in Cuba, the Caribbean and Canada, instead of the United States. The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund, however, did join a coalition in the Florida boycott. …