With same-sex marriages and civil unions legal in several states and cities, the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and an increasing public acceptance of our community, some have questioned if gay travel really still exists. At a the Global Gay and Lesbian think tank during the IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association) conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., influential leaders in gay tourism from around the world concluded that, yes, gay travel will always exist. In addition, they coined a new term: "Gay while traveling."
The group conceded that not all travel that our community does could definitively be termed as gay travel. Is a business trip gay travel? How about a trip to attend a friend or family member's wedding? What makes your trip today a gay trip?
What exactly is "gay while traveling?" Gay while traveling is when the traveler's primary purpose of the trip is to buy a gay travel product (like a pride hotel package) or to experience a LGBT event (such as Gay Days Orlando) or to purchase a group travel experience. Think an Atlantis or Olivia cruise.
Bottom line: When are you making a travel purchase because you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgenderthat is, "gay while traveling."
Spending the last three months working in Atlantic City (AC) as the chief strategy officer for the Atlantic City Alliance, I've wondered what makes a destination like AC a great travel getaway for the gay and lesbian traveler? Would the LGBT traveler make a trip here specifically because of Atlantic City's LGBT offerings?
There is certainly a lot of LGBT in AC. There is Pro Bar at Resorts (www.resortsac.com) with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. Pro Bar is the world's first permanent LGBT bar in a casino. There are LGBT events with the grand dame of events, Miss'd America. Miss'd America is the annual drag competition that takes place on the very same runway and in the same building as the famed pageant. Year round, there are entertainers with huge gay followings including Madonna, Kathy Griffin and others.
According to surveys by Community Marketing Inc., the number-one gay and lesbian travel destination is Sin CityLas Vegas. Through a thoughtful and concentrated marketing effort, Las Vegas has become a LGBT travel destination. It didn't start out that way.
Vegas is Vegas. It had gaming, dining, entertainment and pools. You might go to Vegas for a convention, a straight friend's bachelor party or for a quick getaway. You didn't necessarily go to Vegas to be out. You went to Vegas because everyone else was going too.
In 2006, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and several hotels including the Paris Las Vegas, MGM to court the gay and lesbian traveler with a series of cleaver ads. Several hotels including Paris Las Vegas, Wynn and others soon followed suit. To see a history of the Las Vegas ads, visit the www.commericalcloset.org .
Today, Las Vegas has developed a series of events, special offers and activities tailored to the LGBT traveler. Since this column is about travel, here are two not-to-miss events in Vegas that if you go, would make you definitely "Gay while traveling."
This year, for the first time, the iconic Gay Days Orlando makes a Las Vegas debut, Sept. 4-10. The host hotel is the Tropicana Las Vegas. There are pool parities, entertainment including the Diva's show starring Frank Marino, an expo, and more. For all the travel information, visit www.gaydays.com/lasvegas.
For the ladies, there is Shedonism® Las Vegas, Sept. 6-10. This is a weekend of women's events to coincide with Pride. Organizer says, un-lady like behavior encouraged. The weekend includes appearances by the cast of The Real L Word, DJs, live performances, dance parties, pool parties and the Vegas Dyke March. The host hotel is Rumor, a boutique resort. For more information visit shedonismvegas.com .
Jeff Guaracino is the vice chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), writer and author.