Greater Fort Lauderdale has increased its LGBTI marketing spend by 2757.14% since 1996, from $35,000 (€30,949, £22,561) to £1m (€1,371,783, £1,551,300), it has emerged.
The figures were revealed in an interview with Richard Gray, the managing director of Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender market, conducted by the New York Times.
Asked how the destination started its efforts to reach out to LGBTI tourists, Gray responds: ‘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.’
This year, the city will host the 25th annual Southern Comfort Conference – the world’s largest gathering of the trans community.
Explaining his commitment to trans tourists, Gray added: ‘It was during a run less than two years ago that I really started to think about the T in L.G.B.T. It’s really the forgotten T. I realized I knew nothing about transgender travelers, and, as a gay man, I knew nothing about the transgender community.’
He added: ‘I researched and saw they had this conference that had been in Atlanta for 24 years, and I contacted their president, Lexi Dee. No one had ever courted them or paid them any attention before. They liked our commitment of raising the bar for trans inclusion.’
Discussing the results of his trans travel study, organized with Community Marketing & Insights, Gray explained: ‘We found that 62 percent of transgender people travel alone, many because they’re “stealth” — often they have a partner who has no idea they’re transgender. The Southern Comfort Conference is mostly male to female and that’s what we’ve looked at. Female to male blend easier; male to female often don’t. By far their biggest concerns were physical and verbal violence and a lack of gender-neutral restrooms. Unlike the gay market, trans travelers are more in line with budget travelers, without a lot of disposable income.’
For more information about the Southern Comfort Conference, click here.