Leaders in Philadelphia tourism reflect on LGBTQ+ hospitality

Stephanie Ramones holds a Progress Pride flag that reads,
(Photo: Stephanie Ramones for Visit Philadelphia)

Leaders in Philadelphia’s tourism industry gathered at the Pennsylvania Convention Center with other stakeholders — including state representatives, city council members, and the mayor — on Feb. 21 to reflect on the success of last year’s tourism efforts and present an outlook for 2024. The event, entitled 2024 Philadelphia Tourism Outlook, was coordinated by Visit Philadelphia and Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We have always known how awesome our city is. Now others are taking notice,” said Mayor Cherelle Parker, whose speech focused in part on how tourism improves quality of life for Philadelphians. She spoke about her plan to make business corridors greener and cleaner — an initiative that should make the city more welcoming for both visitors and residents.

“Is Philadelphia ready for company?” she said with a smile, stirring up excitement for events coming this spring and hinting at the FIFA World Cup 2026.

Philadelphia was named “the” vacation destination for queer travelers by Tagg Magazine in 2023. According to data collected in January of last year by Visit Philadelphia via Community Marketing & Insights, 63% of LGBTQ+ people think Philadelphia is a queer-friendly city and 68% of visitors view the Gayborhood as a top tourist attraction. Others value the historic sites and museums, arts and restaurant scene.

Additionally, that study found that the majority of LGBTQ+ travelers are motivated to spend time here because it’s easy to get to. And access to Philadelphia will be increasing — with airlines announcing the addition of direct flights coming to and from both domestic and international locations that will appeal to Philadelphians looking to get away and bring in new tourists.

Philadelphia received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, which provides information about city protections for LGBTQ+ people in states that lack nondiscrimination laws.

Gregg Caren, President & CEO of PHLCVB, spoke about this year’s notable citywide conventions — including the Grace Hopper Celebration, a technology conference that pulled their event from different a city and state — a place Caren said “is not considered as welcoming to all people of all walks of life.”

The organization needed a host that’s safe for all participants and chose Philly. The conference will bring 20,000 women and nonbinary people to the city in October. He’s proud that Philadelphia was named one of America’s most welcoming cities.

“That was an acknowledgment of who we are as a city,” he said. 

Angela Val, President and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, shared about the impact of a campaign that started last year titled “In Search of a More Perfect Union” — an initiative that seeks to reimagine the way the city celebrates historic heritage months.

In 2023, the organization was “doing a lot more than just putting a banner on the website, but really looking at those months to celebrate the culture of people that make up Philadelphia,” she said. They’ll continue these efforts, including their most recent addition of Little Free(dom) Libraries — which stock books that are commonly banned. This project will likely continue and add LGBTQ+ authors during Pride month.

“A lot of people have asked me, ‘What is a destination marketing organization leaning into banned books and Pride — Drag Queen Story Hour,” she added. “There are more places throughout the country that aren’t as welcoming to everyone — and I think Philadelphia is that place, the City of Brotherly Love.”

“The place — where the foundation of this city is Quaker values — has an opportunity to not just be welcoming and inclusive but to make sure people have a true sense of belonging here, whether you’re a resident or a visitor,” she said. “We think that that’s going to set us apart sadly from other cities, and it’s authentic to who we are at our core.”

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