Gay Tourists Find ‘Welcome’ Signs Across Florida

Palm TreesDuring the annual Gay Days in Orlando earlier this summer, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau bought a billboard to entice travelers to head south.
Fort Lauderdale has emerged as a hot spot for gay-friendly travel, a market so lucrative that state tourism marketer Visit Florida recently created a task force to explore how to better cater to gay travelers, who are estimated to have $641 billion in purchasing power this year.
“We rolled out what we call the rainbow carpet a couple of years ago, and we’ve seen a lot of green success,” said Nicki Grossman, president of the Fort Lauderdale bureau.
Though marketing to those groups isn’t new — Key West began nearly 10 years ago — the task force and a report due out this year by the Travel Industry Association of America confirm gay travelers’ status as a highly sought-after group.
The Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, however, has continued to shy away from niche marketing.
And though Disney doesn’t officially acknowledge Gay Days, its resort is the focal point of the event that drew 140,000 people this year.
“We’re really going to put our focus where the research has told us to put our focus, which is the core family market,” bureau spokeswoman Danielle Courtenay said.
Fort Lauderdale, on the other hand, is a place where gays feel comfortable holding hands on the street, said Darren Frei, editor of The Out Traveler.
“The only time you can really do that at Disney World is during Gay Days,” Frei said. “Fort Lauderdale has really become the gay neighborhood of Florida.”
Earlier this summer, Visit Florida Chairwoman Donna Ross created the task force focused on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender markets.
“When you have a population that big and that travels with that kind of buying power, we would like very much to participate,” she said.
from The Orlando Sentinel

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