Tuesday, January 17, 2006

USA Today: Arizona cities market to gay tourists

An interested article from today's USA Today:

Arizona cities try and lure gay tourists

PHOENIX (AP) — Conservatives may be working to add a gay marriage ban on the ballot, but Arizona cities are working to welcome more gay tourists into the state.

The cities are vying for a slice of an estimated $65 billion gay travel market. To do that, cities are marketing the area as a cosmopolitan, tolerant place to vacation.

"My money spends like anyone else's," said Albuquerque resident Andee Henderson, 38, who was among the estimated crowd of 5,000 attending the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association's annual competition at Rawhide over the weekend.

With an 89-page visitors and relocation guide published by the Phoenix gay chamber of commerce flying off the shelves, Phoenix leaders are planing to discuss ways to strengthen the city's gay tourism plan.

Officials in Tucson, Sedona, Bisbee and Jerome say they informally angle for those visitors.
Tempe is in the midst of a sophisticated campaign to lure gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travelers. The campaign began three years ago with careful research, said Stephanie Nowack, president and chief executive of the Tempe Convention & Visitors Bureau. The city later joined industry groups, sent city employees to conferences, bought ads in gay publications and launched a Web portal for gay, lesbian and transgendered visitors.

"I come from Fort Lauderdale, and I like places like that, where it's OK if I have a boyfriend, to hold his hand," said Alan Stark, 43.

But not everyone supports cities courting the gay community.

Leo Godzich, president of the National Association of Marriage Enhancement, says the cities risk destroying the Grand Canyon State's family friendly reputation by trying to wrangle in gay tourists.

"Our tourism dollars should be spent on the bulk of the population, not 2% of the population," Godzich said.