Converge Orlando, Inc., the non-profit LGBT convention and visitors agency for Central Florida, praise the decision announced last week of partner Visit Orlando in assuming responsibility for continuing the successful Gay & Lesbian Travel Guide. Converge launched the 44-page guide in 2013 and distributed over 110,000 copies to key metropolitan markets that account for a substantial amount of gay and lesbian visitors to Orlando. The guide, a foundation communication piece for every major destination actively seeking LGBT tourists, accounted for a significant portion of the LGBT agency’s current budget raised entirely by memberships and contributions. The decision by Visit Orlando to take on the Guide allows Converge to better focus its resources. It also places the publication under the umbrella of the area’s appropriate tourist tax-supported marketing organization, similar to CVBs in Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and Miami.
“The Orlando area is in the top 10 most visited places for LGBT tourists and numbers from the American Hotel and Lodging Association estimate gay travelers spent $3 billion last year in Orlando,” notes Converge Orlando’s Executive Director Mikael Audebert. “We want to build on that organic visitation pattern. Between what we have been able to accomplish since our founding three years ago and the strategic focus Visit Orlando’s decision on the Guide indicates, I believe Orlando will begin to show up more frequently in gay and lesbian tourists’ considerations of vacation destinations.”
Converge Orlando has one over-arching goal: increase the perception of Orlando as a gay-friendly destination. The secondary goal is to increase LGBT expenditures by 25 percent. To accomplish the goal several initiatives are planned in 2014 in four major areas:
- Drive more online visitors to the information website www.orlandogaytravel.com. What sets this site apart is talking directly about what interests LGBT travelers in a way that feels authentic. The site has gone through two major upgrades with a third one to be complete this month. Over time, Converge wants to make orlandogaytravel.com the most visited gay and travel online source for the area.
- Double the number of gay travel writers hosted in Orlando in 2014. Converge has operated a number of major media events in the last two years and have worked with nearly 20 travel writers. Because of this emphasis, there has been more LGBT print and electronic content about Central Florida in 2012-2013 than over the previous 10 years.
- Create more gay and lesbian focused events. Work is underway for the Pan American Diversity Games (for amateur athletics) and Family Outfest (a multi-day event for gay and lesbian couples with children). Converge is working to add annual events targeting the LGBT market to give visitors more reason to choose to vacation in Orlando.
- Launch national promotions. Contests, special offers and exclusive experiences crafted for the gay and lesbian traveler have been very successful in other destinations. Converge plans on creating several of these every year with “Honeymoon: Destination Orlando” campaign currently underway.
“Converge appreciates the work of Visit Orlando and their embrace of the 2014 Gay & Lesbian Travel Guide—and I am pleased with how well we work in concert in this important market,” says Paul Queen, Converge Orlando’s Vice President of Marketing. “I remain hopeful that one of our destination marketing organizations will find the funds for Orlando ads in LGBT travel guides and other gay and lesbian travel publications and pick up a couple important LGBT travel shows we have not been able to adequately cover. If we can accomplish that together, Orlando will truly become a leader in the gay and lesbian travel market.”