The GSBA Blog

Highlights from CMI's 19th Annual LGBTQ Tourism Forum

by Meridian Mayer
| Dec 13, 2018
Earlier this month, our Senior Membership Services Manager Meridian Mayer jetted across the country to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they attended Community Marketing & Insights' 19th Annual LGBTQ Tourism Forum on the behalf of GSBA and Travel Out Seattle.

During the forum, Meridian had the opportunity to speak with LGBTQ travel representatives from across the country and learn about the economic potential of leveraging LGBTQ businesses in tourism. 

Obligatory beach photo
Meridian shared some of their favorite moments from the conference, which took place from Dec. 2 - 4th at the W Fort Lauderdale hotel, conveniently located right on the Atlantic waterfront. Here's Meridian's take:

Sessions started with an informative, deep dive into tourism statistics, led by CMI’s own David Paisley and Thomas Roth. A key, actionable takeaway was to focus on what our destinations do really well and promote those with intentionality to your target audience. They provided “10 steps” to set up a successful LGBTQ marketing strategy. My favorite was to create two lists – one of our destinations top 10 LGBTQ-specific tourism assets and one of top 10 non-LGBTQ specific assets. The goal is to identify your top assets and figure out how to leverage them with emphasis to attract the LGBTQ traveler.

Diversity Fort Lauderdale

Riese Bernard, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of took the stage next, and I was blown away! She made several incredibly eye-opening points about engaging Gen. X and Millennial (specifically queer women) travelers. A key takeaway was a finding she discovered in her survey, “we travel to find community we can’t access at home.” This helped me understand the why of queer travel, which is strikingly different from other communities’ reason for travel. I also learned that successfully marketing to this community requires highlighting ways to live like a local on their trip, being visibly inclusive of the trans community, promoting local experiences like museums and independent bookstores, and truly listing establishments like bars and restaurants that are for lesbians and queer people – not just gay bars for cisgender men.

The "Fort Lauderdale: Welcoming the Entire LGBT+ Community" session was led by Richard Gray, VP, LGBT+ of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. During the presentation, we heard and saw Greater Fort Lauderdale’s diversity initiative #GreaterTogether. It was a rainbow-printed fingerprint with the words “We are all one, we are all welcome, we are all greater together”, which I loved! It was inspiring to see a city own diversity and inclusivity as a movement.

NYC PrideNYC debuted its Pride logo, which was a creative tribute to Stonewall. Donna Keren, SVP, Head of Research Unity for NYC and Company made remarks to honor the historic events and its upcoming anniversary in 2019. It’s amazing to think back and look how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.

Paul Gauger, SVP, Americas & Global Leader for VisitBritain presented the “Love is Great” and “Travel For ___) campaign, which was moving! It was a beautiful depiction of welcoming LGBTQ travel in Europe. I particularly liked the “Travel for Love” portion.

I explored the city during downtime, and zipped around on Bird scooters – fun! They were easy to use and cheap, too. Plus, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to feel the wind in my super-short hair. At night, the scooters lit up, which made them even easier to find. Fun way to explore any city!