Many top tourism destinations in the U.S. suffered tremendously in 2017 as a result of natural or man-made disasters. Beyond the physical damage some of these places endured, they also saw a substantial financial loss due to the sharp decline in visitors.
Unfortunately, recent data shows that, even after many months, tourism in these destinations remains slumped. And while this affects multiple communities, it especially hard on many within the LGBTQ community who are employed within the hospitality industry.
As you plan your travel for the remainder of 2018, here are five destinations that can use your help and are ready to welcome you with open — and LGBTQ-friendly — arms.
More than six months after the Category 4 Hurricane Maria wrecked Puerto Rico — considered by many to be the most LGBTQ-friendly Caribbean destination — many parts of the island are struggling to recover. However, San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital and top attraction for tourists, is almost completely recovered. Visitors will find the colorful colonial buildings, cobblestone streets, and historic Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro forts in Old San Juan looking their best. In addition, the nearby Condado oceanfront hotels, such as the Caribe Hilton and San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, are open and operating as normal.
Billions of dollars of property damage and a drop in tourism dollars followed Category 4 Hurricane Irma after it struck the Florida Keys in September 2017. Luckily for Key West, located at the southernmost tip of the Keys, which span 137.3 square miles of land, Irma’s path was mostly north of the city, which spared the very popular LGBTQ-friendly destination. Just weeks after the storm, Key West was back to its quirky self with the Island House and Equator Resort welcoming guests, Aqua and 801 Bourbon putting on over-the-top drag shows, and Bourbon Street Pub showing off its g0-go boys.
Last year’s hurricane season was not kind to Houston. The nation’s fourth largest city was hit by both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, causing massive flooding issues and other problems. However, the Bayou City has always been resilient and it rebounded rather quickly — especially Montrose, the epicenter of Houston’s LGBTQ community. From Guava Lamp Video Lounge and JR’s Bar & Grill to 1308 Cantina and Barbara Davis Gallery, the neighborhood’s shopping, dining and and nightlife scene is as vibrant as ever.
Tourism drives the economy of Las Vegas, with upwards of more than 40 million annual visitors. However, when a gunman fired on a crowd of attendees at a music festival near the Strip, leaving 58 people dead and hundreds injured, it shocked the world and brought Vegas to a standstill. Following a respectful mourning period, Vegas is once again demonstrating why it is a great destination for LGBTQ travelers. Its famed summer pool parties are in full-swing, world-class entertainers like Ricky Martin are putting on concerts, and celebrated chefs like D.C.’s own Jose Andres are cooking up delicious meals in the city’s many restaurants.
The series of wildfires that spread across Northern California and burned approximately 250,000 acres and claimed multiple lives last year were devastating. Among the many areas affected was Sonoma County. Located within driving distance of San Francisco, it’s a top tourists destination, especially for wine lovers who are drawn to the area’s more than 425 wineries — though, incredibly, only one was lost in the fires. Sonoma County is also home the the Russian River Valley area, which has a long history as an LGBTQ resort destination. As a matter of fact, Guerneville, which sits in the Valley, has one of the highest concentrations of same-sex households in the U.S.