Philly sees jump in LGBT tourism marketing

A recent study found that the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection has increased in popularity among LGBT travelers.

Community Marketing Inc.’s 13th annual “LGBT Tourism Study” ranked Philadelphia 13th on its list of Top 20 U.S. Destinations, a three-spot jump from the previous two years.

Philadelphia first made it onto the list in 2006 at number 16 and held the same rank the following year.

“Just a few years ago, Philadelphia wasn’t even on the gay map, but today the city is among the most-recognized lesbian and gay tourism brands out there,” said Thomas Roth, president of Community Marketing, Inc. “To see this kind of consumer recognition is a tribute to taking a well-considered and steady approach to LGBT travel marketing, and it is a huge achievement.”

The San-Francisco-based Community Marketing, an LGBT market-research corporation, surveyed more than 4,500 LGBT travelers about their business and leisure trips the previous year.

Of those surveyed, 15.1 percent had visited Philadelphia in the previous 12 months, 9.9 percent of them for leisure and 5.2 percent for business.

New York City ranked first on the list in the total number of LGBT tourists, followed by San Francisco, Las Vegas and Chicago, all of which have retained their rankings for the third consecutive year.

New York City drew the most leisure travelers, while Chicago topped the business list.

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus, launched the city’s first LGBT tourism efforts in 2003 with the highly successful “Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay” campaign. Last year, the agency began another phase of the campaign with its “We Your People” advertisements, which portray real LGBT Philadelphians telling their stories and encouraging tourists to learn more about the city and its LGBT life.

Jeff Guaracino, vice president for communications at GPTMC, said Philadelphia’s jump in the ranking is the result of the campaign, coupled with the nature of LGBT tourists.

“The dramatic three-spot jump really does show the impact of a cohesive tourism marketing campaign,” Guaracino said. “What it shows is if you put yourself out there, you can really make a difference. Once people begin to come here and have a good time, they start telling their friends and they tell their friends. Gay and lesbian travelers are really word-of-mouth advocates, and I think that’s what we see happening here.”

Philadelphia ranked third when respondents were asked which city they thought had done the best job of marketing itself to potential LGBT tourists.

Guaracino noted that this question was open-ended, which makes the response even more impressive.

“What this shows is that Philadelphia is really top-of-mind and the national GLBT community really believes in what we’re doing. When gay and lesbian travelers are asked who’s doing a good job and your city is in the top three, that’s awesome and a huge reflection on the entire Philadelphia community,” he said. “Gay and lesbian travelers do authentically feel welcomed here and seem to feel that if they haven’t been here yet, they may give it a try, which gives us a huge competitive edge.”

Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of GPTMC, said both the corporation and the caucus’ efforts were fueled by the city’s vast appeal.

“Philadelphia, our partners and especially the members of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus are immensely proud to know that gay and lesbian travelers are increasingly discovering Philadelphia and the countryside,” Levitz said. “We believe that our region’s rich history, incredible dining, exclusive events, vibrant nightlife and great hotels — all of which are affordable — offer gay and lesbian travelers an unrivaled experience.”

In addition to determining which cities see the most LGBT tourists, Community Marketing studied trends in LGBT travel over the past year.

Survey respondents took a median of four leisure and business trips, spending about 10 nights in hotels for leisure vacations and three for business purposes.

Despite the worsening economy, only about 31 percent of participants said they traveled less last year, while about 30 percent said they took more trips than in the previous year.

LGBT events continued to be a big tourist draw, with 23 percent of respondents saying they traveled more than 50 miles from home for a Pride celebration, the most popular of which were held in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago.

For more information on the report, visit

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].

Newsletter Sign-up