New York City Launches Push for More Gay Tourism

Associated Press
Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NEW YORK, April 7 -- New York City officials are turning to gays and lesbians to help reduce a projected $4 billion budget deficit.

The city unveiled a marketing campaign Tuesday to attract more gay and lesbian tourists, as other U.S. cities compete to strip New York of its title of No. 1 vacation destination for gays and lesbians.

The Rainbow Pilgrimage campaign comes as state and city officials grapple with diminishing revenue resulting from the global economic crisis, which is forcing many people to forgo leisure travel plans or take "staycations" near home.

The campaign kickoff also comes ahead of the 40th anniversary in June of the Stonewall riots in Manhattan, considered the start of the modern gay liberation movement.

"This is a tough time for New York City's budget," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Quinn, who is openly gay, noted that 20 to 25 percent of the city's revenue comes from Wall Street, which remains in turmoil.

An estimated 47 million people visited the city last year, a record high that generated $30 billion in spending, also a record over 2007's $28.9 billion, according to the mayor's office. Gays and lesbians are estimated to have accounted for about 10 percent of those figures.

But state officials are predicting a tourism decline this year.

The new campaign will highlight New York's reputation as a gay-friendly destination and tout a visit to the city as a "rite of passage." The campaign will include advertising on niche Web sites and in magazines, as well as bus-stop shelters, utility poles, telephone kiosks and railroad stations.

NYC & Company, a nonprofit that handles marketing and tourism for the city, is working with and numerous hotels, restaurants and Broadway theaters to offer discounts. George Fertitta, the organization's chief executive, said the announcement was made months before the Stonewall anniversary in late June to give potential tourists time to make plans.

NYC & Company spent $190,000 in city taxpayer money on the campaign but estimates that, through partnerships with advertising agencies, its value reaches nearly $2 million.

Overall, New York City remains the top leisure and business travel destination for gays and lesbians, followed closely by Las Vegas and San Francisco, said David Paisley, a senior projects manager at Community Marketing, a tourism research company that specializes in gay and lesbian consumers.

"There's increasing competition from cities who are reaching out to gays and lesbians," Paisley said. "New York needs to respond or it'll lose the Number 1 position."

The annual economic impact of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers is about $70.3 billion in the United States, according to Community Marketing.

"It clearly is a market that has the flexibility to travel," Fertitta said.

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