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Gay Tripping — Part 1

Gay Tripping — Part 1 Courtesy of Adonis Tulum Riviera Maya Gay Resort & Spa
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Gay resort chains are nothing new abroad, but what about closer to home? As the tendrils of marriage equality take root and the gay community continues its slow, measured march toward ubiquity, are LGBT hotels becoming just another no-big-deal niche in the travel industry?

  It Makes The World Go 'Round

Before we get mired in the touchy-feely, however, let’s get pragmatic: No entity, neither chic boutique hotelier nor vast hospitality empire, is building a fancy hotel with high-end vodka for a bunch of broke-ass bitches.

“Every study I’ve seen shows that LGBT people travel more often and spend more money when they travel,” says freelance travel writer Mark Chesnut, who serves as a Contributing Editor at Passport, the nation’s largest gay travel magazine. “Businesses both large and small are catching on … They realize that targeting a well-traveled niche makes sense.”

Chesnut adds that while economics are certainly at play, reasoning behind recent trends is multifold: “Shifts in society’s attitudes,” he says, “and the increasing acceptance of gay people in the mainstream have [also] been deciding factors in the recent growth in the segment.”


Lords South Beach

Hotelier Brian Gorman summarizes: “Gays are like blondes — ‘they just have more fun!’ — and, they’re willing to pay for it.”

As founder of the new Lords South Beach, he would know. Lords’ Miami venture is the maiden property in what’s being billed as “America’s first gay hotel chain.” With hopes for expansion to cities including New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco, Gorman envisions his brand’s rainbow arcing from coast to coast.
Says Gorman, “Lords is “a celebration of the gay community that embraces everyone.” Its main goal: “To promote fun and community.” In that spirit, Lords runs programming that fosters connections between travelers. “Sunday night, all our guests get complimentary drinks during cocktail hour and we have a weekly pool party that brings out locals, as well as hotel guests,” says Gorman, stressing the importance of that local angle.

Lords is smack in the middle of a multitude of homocentric attractions and venues, including the city’s premier nude beach and several popular nightspots. Though the property boasts kitschy, playful design (“that’s a little tongue-in-cheek, just like our guests!”) and even its own app — Out and About; something of an insider’s guide to Miami — Gorman notes the most important element is “giving people an environment where they feel comfortable just being themselves.”

  The Queer Apple

New York is one such place, and THE OUT NYC is aiming to become “the epicenter of LGBT life” in a city that’s already one of the world’s most gay-friendly. “It’s a tall order,” says Chesnut, “but they seem to be approaching it in the right way, working with some of New York City’s real gay nightlife gurus — which should help bring in the locals, while attracting visitors who want to tap into the excitement.”

The project appears to be taking its cue from the successful “hetero-friendly” Axel Hotels brand. (Chic and upscale, Axel operates some visually stunning properties in Barcelona, Berlin and Buenos Aires. THE OUT looks to draw on the 7 million gay tourists that visit New York annually, a new wave of “DINKS” (double-income, no kids) they say haven’t let the down economy get in the way of their spending, and become the United States’ first property on an Axel scale. (Check out their investor video at: www.theoutnyc.com.)

Riding in on the heels of legal same-sex marriage in the Empire State, timing for the project — a $30 million complex including a nightclub, wellness center, retail shops and a 105-room hotel that’s slated to open in early 2012 — couldn’t be better. “This is an idea whose time has come,” says Ian Reisner, managing partner, Parkview Developers. “THE OUT NYC will become a ‘can’t-miss’ for gay tourists…. We look forward not only to hosting countless gay couples, but marrying them as well.”

  Birds of a Feather

The gay community is largely comprised of thoughtful, well-informed consumers. Their spending patterns can be motivated, in part, by things like charity and workplace sensitivity; companies that pay attention are often rewarded. Kimpton Hotels, for example, was the first hotel group to score 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (they’re oft-touted as the gay-friendliest chain around). Gorman recognized this from the get-go, building a charitable component into the Lords concept. “Ten percent of proceeds from certain rooms go to support local and national LGBT organizations.”


Courtesy of Adonis Tulum Riviera Maya Gay Resort & Spa

Rick, 38, says he and husband Cleve, 52 — the pair married in British Columbia in 2006 — travel and spend with community in mind. He likens the sentiment to cheering for your country at the Olympics. “I’m of Portuguese descent and if I see a Portuguese establishment, I’ll eat or shop there. Gay people like to support other gay people — hence, ‘gay pride!’”
Matt, a 39-year-old attorney, says he’d only book an all-gay resort for a leisure trip. “But on business, I’d still probably stay at a gay-friendly hotel if all other employer-imposed requirements were met.” Why? “I want my money going to companies who support my community, I want to be appreciated, not viewed as an anomaly, and gay-friendly resorts are more likely to have information on local places of interest.”

  Climate Control

Gay travelers are often adventurous. They want to discover diamond-in-the-rough destinations, too. “I prefer small towns and road tripping,” says Todd, a 27-year-old publishing professional who is presently single. “I don’t want a ‘scene.’ I’d rather hike or find a waterfall to swim under.” But, he admits, “I can be leery of just blazing into some beautiful mountain town for fear of an anti-gay climate.”

He does due diligence, researching beforehand. “Most of the time I just go, anyway. But I tend to tone myself down, travel with less obviously gay friends, try to blend. It’s sad, but it’s reality. I love the idea of stumbling on a new town or trail or diner, but there have been times when I’ve pulled in somewhere, looked around and thought, I might not be welcome here — so I just kept going.”

Todd has enjoyed stays at gay resorts in his home state of California, “but it would really be nice if orientation was a non-issue,” he says. “I know ‘it gets better.’ But it’s not better enough yet…. In a lot of the ‘small-town America’ places I’d most like to visit, gay people don’t seem to be welcomed let alone gay marriage!”

But in the places where it does exist, same-sex marriage opens an entirely new market. “Google gay weddings or honeymoons for any state in which marriage is legal — you can even check Gay City News for a special section — and the options are vast,” says Chesnut. “This only gives hotels more reasons to create special packages to bring in more revenue — it’s a boon to tourism and the hotel industry.”

Gorman, down in South Beach, agrees, though he doesn’t see gay marriage passing in Florida anytime soon. “Now, if Miami were its own state…?” he jokes. “But yes — all venues would see increased revenue. Gay people enjoy celebrating!”

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