Video: West Palm Beach’s Sandi Tree Lighting
Drone video of Sandi Tree, the 35-foot, 700-ton sand tree in West Palm Beach. New this year to the holiday celebration is a 65-foot Ferris wheel for guests to enjoy.
Greg Lovett, Palm Beach Post
With its beautiful beaches and warm weather, Palm Beach is a top travel destination year-round. Many tourists wanting to trade 30-degree weather up north for a more comfortable climate use credit card rewards to make the trip to Florida. Those points also help “snow birds” and others returning to the Sunshine State spend time with loved ones.
Enjoy it while you can, because if some members of Congress get their way, this could be the last December for travel with credit card rewards.
Congress is trying to pass a law, the Durbin-Marshall credit card bill, that would drastically impact your wallet. If enacted, it would jeopardize travel rewards, cash back and other credit card rewards programs. And with Americans already fighting higher costs due to inflation, the measure would slash the number of those able to travel to Palm Beach and other parts of Florida. This would hurt the state’s $100 billion travel and tourism industry, as well as cost Florida millions of jobs.
This comes at a time when the travel industry has finally rebounded from the pandemic. Florida saw a record 37.9 million visitors between last January and March, the largest volume of visitors ever recorded in a single quarter.
Accessible flights to warmer weather are a big reason why. Palm Beach International Airport had one of its biggest Thanksgivings yet, with more than 40,000 passengers flying through around the holiday. That’s adding to more than 7.5 million passengers total this year, a record high.
Americans are using the credit card rewards and points they’ve earned. In fact, last year, credit card rewards paid for more than 2.4 million domestic visitor trips to Florida, according to a recent study by Airlines for America, the association representing all of the U.S. airlines. The report revealed that trips to Florida paid for with credit card points generated nearly $3.8 billion in economic activity and supported more than 31,000 jobs in the state last year.
Make no mistake – credit card rewards are not just some handout for heavy spenders. A recent poll from Morning Consult found that one in three Americans with household income under $50,000 would travel less if their credit card rewards were eliminated, while three in 10 would buy fewer gifts.
When people visiting our state save money on airfare and gifts, that means they can spend more freely on meals at restaurants and experiences. That means more money flowing to Florida business, and a better travel experience that keeps tourists coming back for more vacations.
Spending money would also become riskier. Critically, the bill would weaken security measures for credit card transactions by forcing your credit card data to be processes on untested, less secure transaction networks. This would come right at the time most scammers are gearing up for the holiday season and consumers are the most vulnerable.
Florida can’t risk the damage to its tourism economy that would be created by Congress if the bill were passed. Travelers can’t afford to lose access to the points that make travel possible for their families. Legislation that threatens to turn away the more than 26.5 million visitors that visited the state last year would be disastrous for our entire economy, not just the tourism industry.
We need a stable, sustainable travel economy, not a bill in Congress that puts Florida’s tourism industry at risk.
South Florida economist Frank de Varona is the author of several books on economic policy and Chair of the Florida-based Keep Government Accountable Coalition. He is a former professor at Florida International University.