In Down Economy, Cities Reach Out to Gay Tourists

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – As a stagnant economy has many Americans rethinking travel plans, cities are marketing to new travel demographics — including gay and lesbian tourists.

Unlike other travel brackets, gay travel has remained steady despite the economic recession. Gay and lesbian couples travel more often and spend more money while on vacation than straight couples. According to a 2006 study conduced by the U.S. Travel Association, gay men spend about $800 per trip. Straight men spend $540.

Cities are heeding the trend. In 2003, Philadelphia launched its $300,000 a year “Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay” marketing campaign. Now, the city ranks as America’s 13th largest gay and lesbian travel destination. Southwest Airlines is currently working with the city to attract even more gay and lesbian visitors.

In addition to Philadelphia, Miami, with its historic art deco hotels, beaches and happening nightlife, continues to draw gay and lesbian vacationers. But as the gay tourism market becomes more competitive, the city is working to draw new visitors. In April 2009, the city held a Gay Pride Festival to celebrate gender rights and sexual equality. Twenty thousand visitors showed up to enjoy a parade and the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus and to wave rainbow-colored flags.

“In the past few years, other cities like Key West have cut into Miami’s gay tourism,” says Frederic S. Richardson, CEO of MOD Hospitality (www.eastcoastventures.com), which owns the Astor and Clinton hotels — two of the top-ranked hotels in South Beach. “It’s time that Miami reasserts itself as one of the gay cultural centers of the world.”

Chicago, which hosted the 2006 Gay Games — a quadrennial athletic and cultural event — continues to pursue gay and lesbian tourists. The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau writes a quarterly newsletter directed toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travelers, and plans to host an International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association board meeting.

“Chicago, frankly, is just now catching up to other cities who have been aggressively wooing the pink dollar,” said Mark Theis, executive vice president of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, in an interview with the the Chicago Tribune. “We want people to know how gay-friendly we are and the wealth of attractive assets we have.”

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