Courting Transgender Tourists

Published Date Author: , September 28th, 2016

Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been courting gay and lesbian travelers for nearly two decades, an effort that most recently included a marriage-equality wedding promotion.

This year the city became one of the country’s first destinations to market to transgender travelers, with a new tourism campaign, and for the first time will host the Southern Comfort Conference, one of the largest transgender conferences in the country, with about 1,000 attendees. (The 25th gathering begins Sept. 29.)

Much of the credit goes to Richard Gray, who arrived in Fort Lauderdale in 1991 as a hotelier and now serves as managing director of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender market. Mr. Gray, 57, also serves on the board of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. Following are edited excerpts from an interview with Mr. Gray.

Q. How has marketing to gay travelers changed since Fort Lauderdale started its outreach efforts in 1996?

A. At first, it was too risky to use the word “gay,” so we used “rainbow.” We started with a budget of $35,000, which has grown to over $1 million. We now welcome 1.3 million L.G.B.T. travelers who spend approximately $1.5 billion in the area.

By Diane Daniel – Full Story at The New York Times

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