A Tourist Attraction

Turning Orlando's Mass Shooting into a Spectacle and Tourist Attraction

Efforts made by Barbara Poma and the OnePULSE Foundation to turn Orlando's mass shooting into a spectacle and tourist attraction is a problem for us.

For the past two years, Barbara Poma and the OnePULSE Foundation has consistently pitched the memorial and museum project as a future tourist attraction. The footage below shows Ms. Poma pitching mock-ups of potential designs for a “memorial” museum to the local Tourism Development Council, discussing the need to displace businesses to accommodate parking for “tourist buses.”

According to reporting from the Bungalower, “Poma and Crittenden emphasized the impact of other Disaster Tourism sites across the country and revealed that the average amount of daily visitors to the interim Pulse memorial site currently hovers around 300 people a day.”

 

This reporting included the following slides explaining how they see the museum as part of the city's larger tourism market:

On 08/04/2019, we sent a public records request to Orange County for the release of the OnePULSE Foundation's full application. This was provided to the Tourist Development Tax Application and Review Committee by Fred Winterkamp on August 17, 2018 (see meeting minutes here). We have not received this application as of 08/09/2019.

However, the Orlando Sentinel, which has had access to these documents reported the following:

"The foundation’s projections call for an annual operating budget of more than $7.3 million to be raised through individual donors, corporations, charitable foundations, entry fees, museum memberships, merchandise sales and venue rental."

Ms. Poma also wrote, “... The site is already hosting sizable traveling groups and will continue to grow visitation through extensive marketing and advertising plans in partnership with area tourism leaders. The timing of many of these groups is in traditional off-seasons, adding to the value of the extended stays of our visitors, including the highly sought-after LGBTQ community.”

Furthermore, a January 19, 2019 funding proposal submitted to the Florida State House states that the proposed museum will benefit the city “measured by the number of local visitors... [and] number of visitors from outside the region, state, and country who will come to Orlando to visit the Pulse Memorial Museum in addition to theme parks.” It also states that the museum will bring an “improvement in economic activity,” and that “ticket sales and attendance” will be tracked as marketable data. See below:

As these sources show (and this one, too), Orlando's mass -shooting site has been leveraged as a tourist attraction on multiple occasions.

 

What's more, is that the Interim Pulse Memorial Guestbook is being used to collect market data that's being used to justify the proposed museum's place in Orlando's tourism economy. Is this an appropriate use of people's grief and mourning?

Lastly, instead of being led by grassroots local activists and affected community members, the organization's Board of Trustees is full of corporate representatives, including George A. Kalogridis (President of Walt Disney World), Dale Hipsh (Senior Vice President of Hard Rock International), and Yatin Patel (co-founder of Reservations.com)—all who have an obvious interest in growing Orlando's tourism industry.

 

We are not against all museum exhibitionsFor example, we 100% support the exhibits that have been crafted by the Orange County Public Library and museum professionals at the Orange County Regional History Center. We support their hard work, which is being done by librarians and archivists who earn modest salaries. We also support the 100 volunteer-run LGBT History Museum of Central Florida and believe that they deserve more funding for a brick-and-mortar space. These qualified professionals have been archiving and exhibiting local LGBTQ+ histories for years. 

 

We are against the OnePulse Foundation's vision for a museum that seeks to function as a tourist attraction. We are against turning Orlando's mass shooting into a spectacle through a multi-block "memorial" and museum that has sought to gobble up nearby businesses and provide an economic benefit to those that remain.

Has anyone asked nearby residents who will be affected by this kind of development if they support the OnePULSE Foundation's vision for a museum and multi-block urban planning project? What's worse, is the OnePULSE Foundation is trying to turn the mass shooting into an "urban renewal initiative." As we state throughout this website, mass shooting should never be leveraged for profit, job creation, or urban revenue generation. This would be unprecedented.

Another way in which the OnePULSE Foundation is turning the mass shooting into a spectacle is through its "International Design Competition" for the memorial and museum tourist attraction. This foundation's website was updated in August to describe this process in more detail, which includes mention of a $50,000.00 "honorarium" that will be given to the six design team finalists. That's a total of $300,000.00 that will go to people who were not directly affected by the mass shooting, while survivors are struggling to get the care they need and deserve. We call this a gross injustice. WE WILL NOT LET INJUSTICE PASS UNNOTICED. A museum built on such injustice and cloaked in the rhetoric of love is a project of public deception. 

An international design competition is unnecessary and the fate of the city does not need to be determined by a select "jury" that includes only one survivor our of fifteen people. Design concepts are due in early September, review by the "jury" will be done in mid-October, and the winning team will be announced in late October. As of 08/07/2019, the exact dates had not been published on the organization's website (see the schedule that is posted below):

With deep integrity, we STATE: there should never be winners in the context of a mass shooting. Jobs should also not be an outcome of a mass shooting. The OnePULSe Foundation has stated that it will offer new jobs to 90 people, costing over $7M annually to operate. Many of this project's supporters expect positions in the future museum. 

The OnePULSE Foundation's website claims that "only after collecting information from survivors and the families of the 49 angels will we move forward with design plans." Survivors and the families of the 49 victims have not been involved in the selection of the six finalists for the competition. Many have no idea what's happening. The OnePULSE Foundation has moved forward with the actual design process without consulting with all 49 families, which goes against this statement.