According to Community Marketing Inc, a consumer research firm, the LGBT travel segment spends about $63 billion annually in the U.S. alone. Gay leisure travelers are “less affected by economic downturns than their mainstream counterparts because the majority are dual-income-no-kids consumers;” therefore they “remain an important niche market for the tourism and hospitality industry” says Thomas Roth, President, Community Marketing Inc.
Keeping this in mind, several design driven hotels are opening up across the U.S. catering to the LGTB community especially. Although there have always been a fair number of resorts and hotels that have billed themselves as gay friendly, hoteliers and prospectors are daring to take the concept a step further. The recently opened 53-room Lords South Beach Hotel in Miami woos its exclusive clientele with a bright decor, plunge pools and bar. Located just a stone’s throw away from the leading gay beach in South Beach, Lords isn’t simply “gay friendly,” it is a through and through gay hotel.
Following close on its heels will be the Fort Lauderdale’s Royal Palms which is scheduled to open in January. It has converted its tiny guest house into a massive boutique hotel. Catering to an all-male clientele, they plan to offer a “clothing-optional” environment. The Royal Palms Resort is vying for the title of North America’s biggest “full-service” gay retreat.
Offering Royal Palms stiff competition will be the much hyped Out NYC which is slated to open its doors to the LGBT community in New York sometime in 2011. The 90,000-sq.-ft. resort will be opened near the Times Square. In an effort to reach out to most gay travelers, the prices of the rooms are being kept below mainstream, starting below $250. As NYC’s managing partner, Ian Reisner, points out, “We’re not going after überupscale — it’s not going to be the InterContinental.”
As is with most things that are a topic of debate, there are people voicing skepticism on the popularity of these resorts, especially with Out NYC having generated so much interest. Many believe that expanding to new locations would be challenging, not to mention expensive, with very little financial success to show in return. It is also felt that such hotels will always remain a niche business since non-gay travelers may not be comfortable staying there. However, considering that New York is the one of the top notch destinations for America’s gay community, with about 7 million tourists pumping a mind-boggling $16.4 billion into NYC every year, Out NYC has little to worry about. As do I suspect most of the other LGTB resorts.