Top Ten Tips to Booking Gay and Lesbian Meetings (From a Straight Woman!)

By Jeff Guaracino Vice President, Communications, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp | November 30, 1999

The gay meeting and convention market today

There are conventions for gay doctors, gay lawyers, gay journalists, gay civil rights leaders, gay financial planners, gay square dancing associations, gay scientists and technical professionals and annual meetings for gay employee groups representing Fortune 500 companies including Microsoft and Disney. There are more than 80 gay and lesbian associations that can be booked as a group meeting or convention. More, this business is often booked just a year or two out and is perfect for generating short-term business.

Of course, there are also conventions that have nothing to do with being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It may be a convention or meeting for real estate agents or endocrinologists. However, the opportunity may exist to influence the decision to come to your destination in the first place and the chance to increase attendance at the convention because your hotel has reputation as gay-friendly.

"The GLBT convention market is still in its embryonic stage and is developing towards infancy," said Jack P. Ferguson, senior vice president of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau. "The GLBT convention market is considered very niche at present compared to traditional sources of business: corporate, association, trade show and SMERF."

Ferguson said that there are two significant challenges facing sales forces: the lack of education on how to identify and market to the GLBT meeting planner and the lack of permanent contacts and offices. It is hard for mainstream CVBs and hotel sales organizations to go after the business because GLBT convention planners are mainly volunteer-driven and hard to reach.

This is the fundamental problem. The hospitality industry is hard pressed to find the names, address and meeting schedules of GLBT groups. GLBT meeting organizers, most of whom do not work within the hospitality industry, do not yet have the knowledge or skill set (and vice-versa) on how to work effectively with sales teams of CVBs and hotels. Another challenge to booking gay meetings and conventions is that often times the planners are volunteers. Volunteers change too frequently or have already decided on where and when they are going to send their business.

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