Fort Lauderdale pioneered LGBT-specific tourism nearly 20 years ago with their first gay-specific advertising campaign. Since then, the vacationers have arrived in droves: just last year, 1.3 million LGBT tourists visited the city, spending nearly $1.5 billion.
Richard Gray, managing director of the LGBT market at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (the CVB), noticed there was scant information about the transgender traveler. Recently, he recommended the CVB participate in a nationwide survey of transgender travel habits, conducted by Community Marketing & Insights.
The study showed that transgender travelers stick to urban areas, and would prefer warm weather options if there were more of them. Safety was a very high concern among the respondents, but the results also showed that there were few places transgender travelers felt safe visiting. 48% of respondents believed Fort Lauderdale was “not very trans-friendly,” while only 10% felt positively about the city. At the same time, Fort Lauderdale ranked #9 among the top travel destinations for transgender travelers in the country.
Sensing that Fort Lauderdale could market itself as a safe destination of transgender travelers, the CVB debuted the first step in their initiative: the website sunny.org/tlgb. It showcases helpful local resources such as advocacy groups, transgender-friendly doctors and a list of safe spaces such as bathrooms.
After that, Gray and his team met with organizers of the Southern Comfort Transgender Conference, the oldest transgender issues conference in the U.S. The organizers were impressed with the CVB’s overtures to the transgender traveler, and starting in 2015, the yearly conference will be relocating to the Bonaventure Resort and Spa in Weston.
As the CVB enters what’s considered uncharted territory for most American tourism bureaus, Gray and his team are hoping Fort Lauderdale will be seen as the premier place to travel for all parts of the LGBT community. Including the “T.”