How Cities Capitalize on the Gay Community

How Cities Capitalize on the Gay Community

-photo courtesy of Ladestra

“Come to Philadelphia. Get your history straight and your nightlife gay.”

Sound familiar? This campaign slogan, pitched in 2003, has helped Philadelphia rake in its share from the $54.1 billion gay tourism market. In an article entitled “How a city grows gay-friendly,” Jerry McHugh with Community Marketing Inc. says, “Gay visitors to Philadelphia spend almost 2½ times more each day and 80 percent more on a hotel than other tourists. Gay men and lesbians typically travel more often, spend more money and come back more frequently than average tourists.”

Obviously, “coming out” for a city is a big deal. Not only is catering to gay tourists profitable to hotels, bars, clubs and restaurants, but it is also a chance to give potential residents a whirlwind tour of the city. Consider it an investment. According to Richard Florida, a professor from George Mason University, the development of bohemian, artistic and gay communities within a city marks the beginning of economic growth and prosperity. It is because these populations have been known to revitalize low-income areas with their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, thus stimulating business and increasing property values. The exchange seems to be mutually beneficial: while the city gets a makeover, gays have a community where their safety and freedom to self-expression is least threatened.

However, statistics from a study conducted by Gary J. Gates of the Williams Institute, state that, while there has been a quintupling of reported same-sex couples since 1990, enclaves for gay communities are becoming … well … less gay. Couples are beginning to move into quieter, less expensive suburban areas and cities—such as Fort Worth or Albuquerque—that, until recently, were not widely thought of as gay-friendly.

Does this migration pattern indicate that the same revitalization process will be taking place in the newly developed gay communities? And if this pattern continues to repeat itself, who will truly benefit from the phenomenon: the gay population or the gay-friendly?

Tags: tourism

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