Monday, October 24, 2016

Southern Comfort Transgender Conference 2016

Greater Fort Lauderdale welcomed the 26th Annual Southern Comfort Conference to its sunny shores in 2016, and will host the conference, one of the largest gatherings of the transgender community in the world, next year.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale is the only CVB in the U.S. with a designated LGBTQ department and in 2014, commissioned the first-ever survey of transgender travelers in North America with the goal of identifying the travel motivations, needs and priorities of the market.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry for 2016

Richard Gray, LGBTQ managing director of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB); vice chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) - After a career in investment banking and a second career as a hotelier, Richard Gray joined the GFLCVB, which goes by "Visit Sunny," in 2012, becoming the first full-time CVB sales and marketing executive whose sole responsibility is the LGBT market. It was a good fit for the man who helped created Visit Sunny's first-in-the-U.S. LGBT marketing initiative in 1996, subsequently becoming the CVB's volunteer LGBT liaison and helping build this segment of its business. Gray's budget, which started at $35,000 two decades ago, now exceeds $1 million, and helps attract some 1.3 million LGBT travelers, who spend approximately $1.5 billion in the area -- including, last year the 1,000 attendees at the 25th Southern Comfort Conference, one of the largest transgender conferences in the country.


Friday, October 14, 2016

LGBTMPA Interviews Jeff Guaracino

Jeff Guaracino, author of the forthcoming book, "Handbook for LGBT Tourism and Hospitality: A Guide for Business Practice" and President and CEO of Welcome America, shared his professional insights and tips on the industry with the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association:

JG: In the meeting and convention world, many LGBT groups can be found within the SMERF (social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal) market. There are LGBT-related groups for just about everything, from the Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists in London to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association. 

Back in 2007, Jack Ferguson, senior vice president (later president and CEO) of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), said, “The LGBT convention market is still in its embryonic stage and is developing towards infancy.” In 2015, Julie Coker, president and CEO of the Philadelphia CVB, affirmed that LGBT groups are now firmly in the SMERF market, with the Out and Equal conference being one of the largest conventions in the United States. Why has this change happened, and what opportunities does it offer?

It used to be more difficult to tap the LGBT meeting, group, and convention market because meeting planners and group organizers (often volunteers) were harder to find and the lack of permanent offices made prevented traditional sales calls. Today, however, the Web has made these planners visible and easier to reach.

LGBTMPA: How powerful is this emerging industry?

JG: LGBT meetings and conventions are a big business. For example, The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board reported a $950,000 economic impact to Los Angeles from a recent International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association Convention. Delegates to the three-day convention spent $260,000 at the Hyatt Regency alone. Las Vegas is another popular destination for meetings and conventions for all kinds of travelers. The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA) saw the value in the LGBT market and wanted to position the city to earn the business. As Las Vegas entered the LGBT tourism segment, the destination sought meeting, group, convention, and large-event opportunities. In recent years, the LVCVA recorded booking 85,000 room nights for LGBT groups, with a non-gaming economic impact of over $25 million.

LGBTMPA: What are some of your tips for attracting the LGBT meeting and convention business?

JG: Go to the largest LGBT conventions to meet with other industry leaders and meeting planners. Often times you can find or refer a client who is organizing a small group LGBT meeting or sporting event. You can also get great ideas for sponsors, programming and the issues of that particular audience. Engage local LGBT leaders who might be able to refer other business to you (both LGBT and straight).  Remember, engagement with the LGBT community is not only a good business decision it also signals that your organization is openly accepts all groups of people, is progressive and those values align with many meeting planners. Sell and develop relationships. After you evaluate and position your service, space or product for the LGBT market but you have to sell the heck out of it.  Building or growing a market segment requires consistent investment and time to measure your ROI. 

Reserve a copy of Jeff Guaracino’s book at

LGBTMPA: Join our growing list of LGBT Meeting Professionals to stay informed at

Monday, October 10, 2016

Introducing the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association (LGBTMPA)

Launched this week to serve the unique needs of LGBT meeting planners around the globe, has created the ideal online marketplace for LGBT event planners, meeting planners and all of their industry contacts.  Designed to facilitate networking and growing business relationships, their main goal is to simply build business for the LGBT meeting planning community.

The LGBTMPA serves a unique space in the marketplace.  There are various groups and associations serving the LGBT travel community, including the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and Community Marketing.  There are also several large groups and associations serving the meeting and event planning community, including the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the Meeting Professionals International (MPI), and within these are subgroups serving niche markets within this community, including LGBT.  They often meet up, on average, once or twice per year at these various association conferences and conventions held worldwide, at meet ups or small formalized evening gatherings just for the LGBT contingent attending the event.  In addition, there has been an increase in LGBT educational programming at these conferences and conventions, typically focusing on some of the basics in reaching and communicating to the LGBT marketplace.

With the LGBTMPA firmly in place, they are taking this to the next level, with an inaugural mid-Atlantic conference planned for Fall 2017 in Atlantic City.  The programming at this event will include interactive seminars about LGBT meeting best practices, as well as explore market opportunities, research and trends.  In addition, marketing strategies and tactics will be discussed, along with revenue generation tips, industry innovator panels and more.

Lastly, there will be a directory of resources coming online this year, along with a library of videos... all with the express goal of furthering the LGBT meeting & event planner community.

Stay tuned for further updates on both this association and the upcoming conference in the coming weeks.