Orlando competes for same-sex honeymooners

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Sixteen states and the District of Columbia now grant same-sex marriages, making LGBT honeymooners a hot commodity. With the launch yesterday of a new campaign targeting same-sex couples, Orlando, Fla., became the latest in a growing list of those seeking a piece of this potentially lucrative market.

While Florida voters elected to constitutionally ban same-sex marriages and civil unions on November 6, 2008 with 62% of the vote, Orlando received an above average score of 79 points on the Human’s Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2013 Municipal Equality Index.

“Until Florida can get same-sex marriage legal, we are excited to be campaigning for newlyweds from [states that have legalized same-sex marriage] to select Orlando as their honeymoon destination of choice,” said Mikael Frank Audebert, executive director of Converge Orlando, the official LGBT Convention and Visitors Bureau for Orlando and Central Florida.

“Orlando offers over 35 different types of experiences. Why not make it a 3-5 day stop as part of a long Florida honeymoon? From theme parks to golfing, from kayaking our natural springs to fine dining in our several downtowns, from hot air ballooning to extraordinary shopping, we have everything LGBT newlyweds need to create new memories as they finally get recognized as equal.”

According to Converge Orlando, in the next 12 months, an estimated 50,000 same sex couples will get married in one of the states that have legalized same-sex marriage. It also estimated $150 million will be spent on same-sex honeymoons during that same period.

Audebert and his organization also believe that Orlando, as a leading U.S. destination for international visitors, also has a unique opportunity to not only attract domestic same-sex honeymooners but also those from any of the more than dozen countries that allow same-sex marriages. One of these countries, Brazil, currently represents the largest contingent of tourists in Orlando.

As part of its new campaign, supported by Macy’s and The Wedding Alliance, participating members of Converge Orlando will provide same sex couples that present their marriage certificates discounts on items such as rooms, attractions and dining. To promote its efforts, Converge Orlando is conducting an advertising campaign that includes print publications, Facebook and radio and a $50,000 spent on Google ad-words in select markets.

More information on Converge Orlando’s campaign is available at orlandogaytravel.com/honeymoon.

Orlando will have some catching up to do. Many destinations such as Massachusetts (the first state to legalize same-sex marriage), Palm Springs, Calif., and Miami, Fla., have been active with their own efforts to attract same-sex honeymooners. Last month, West Hollywood, Calif., launched a contest to give away “a same-sex wedding and honeymoon of a lifetime.”

LGBT marketing expert Bob Witeck, president of Witeck Communications and co-author of Business Inside Out: Capturing Millions of Brand Loyal Gay Consumers, believes that Orlando’s effort can further demonstrate the economic benefits of being welcoming to the LGBT community and possibly support efforts to achieve marriage equality in Florida.

“While it is ironic for a campaign to encourage same-sex couples to honeymoon in a destination that does not recognize their relationship, it makes good business sense for Orlando,” said Witeck.

[Photo: Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World Resort. Credit: Kent Phillips/Disney]

Troy Petenbrink is Metro Weekly's contributing writer for food and travel. He can be reached at troy@metroweekly.com.

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