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Souther Florida already does a ton of business with the LGBT traveler, so it knows what could happen to its weddings business if the same-sex marriage floodgates opened.
Tourism leaders in Broward and Palm Beach counties are exploring ways to promote same-sex weddings in next year’s marketing plans in the event it’s legalized soon.
If the same-sex marriage ban is lifted statewide in coming months, tourism officials say they want to be ready to spread the word to the LGBT community that they can now legally tie the knot in the destination.
“We want to be literally ready to go,” said Richard Gray, managing director LGBT market for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
For now, Gray is keeping mum on details. “We don’t want to show our hand to the competition.”
Jorge Pesquera, president of Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s tourism marketing organization, said, “As we continue to work on our 2015 marketing plan, we are certainly taking into consideration the increasingly important LGBT niche market, among others.”
Earlier this month, Broward’s tourism bureau officially came out in support of overturning same-sex marriage bans in Florida. The gay-marriage nod follows nearly two decades of actively promoting the destination to LGBT travelers.
Last year, Broward welcomed a record-breaking 1.3 million LGBT tourists. And many more are expected to visit if gay marriage is legalized statewide, tourism officials say.
Local hotels such as the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood and il Lugano in Fort Lauderdale already have gay- wedding-certified specialists in house to cater to the needs of same-sex couples.
Palm Beach County Palm Beach County welcomed about 480,000 LGBT visitors in 2013 — roughly 8 percent of the 6 million people who visited that year, tourism records show.
As part of its efforts to attract LGBT travelers, the tourism agency has made “tactical investments” in events such as the International Gay Polo Tournament, which will mark its sixth year in April 2015, Pesquera said Gay polo attracts between 5,000 and 10,000 people, he said. It also supports PrideFest of Lake Worth and The Palm Beaches, a two-day event set for March 2015.
Several same-sex couples are now battling in courts across South Florida for rights to legally marry in the state or have their marriage from elsewhere be recognized here.
Lawyers and civil rights groups lobbying for their rights have said it’s only a matter of time before the state joins 19 others that have legalized gay marriage. On Friday, a Miami-Dade circuit judge issued a ruling overturning Florida’s ban on gay marriage, but chances are, as in a recent Monroe County case, the state will appeal.
“We believe it will be happening,” Gray said of Florida’s legalization of gay marriage. “The economic impact will be phenomenal for us.”
In the first year after New York City legalized same-sex marriages, it reaped $259 million in economic impact, according to a survey by NYC & Co., the city’s tourism marketing firm. Some 8,200 gay-marriage licenses were issued during the period.