Editors of PlanetOut Inc.'s (Nasdaq: LGBT) OUT&ABOUT Travel announced the winners (and losers) of the 12th annual OUT&ABOUT Travel Awards, led by Spain, which won the coveted title of "Destination of the Year" for 2005.
PlanetOut's OUT&ABOUT Travel Awards recognize achievements in lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) travel during the past year, as well as bring attention to an industry increasingly opening doors to LGBT travelers. Commentary, travel resources and the complete list of honorees can be viewed on Gay.com/travel and PlanetOut.com/travel.
"No place opened its hearts and minds and put out the welcome mat to the LGBT community quite like Spain has this year," said Ed Salvato, PlanetOut Inc. travel editor. "With its sun-drenched beaches, history-filled cities and picturesque countryside, as well as its recent legalization of gay marriage, it's no surprise that Spain is the destination of the year."
What's really amazing is how Spain has transformed in just 30 years, from the oppressive era of Franco to today's progressive, more inclusive atmosphere," he added. "It brings hope that destinations we warn you to avoid could one day open their arms to everyone regardless of sexual orientation."
According to Salvato, while Spain and some of this year's other winners consistently make the list, several new and unusual places have begun to woo LGBT travelers and deserve praise. Among the best:
Bloomington, Ind. received an award in "Tourism Development" for breaking into the gay and lesbian travel market by showcasing itself as a progressive college town with cultural opportunities surprising for its size and location.
Parks and Resorts at Yosemite National Park received a "Special Mention" for their on-going efforts in courting LGBT travelers amidst a challenging political climate.
Salvato noted that not every place deserved cheers. Fourteen destinations, companies and organizations whose homophobia was evident in 2005 received "Rock Bottom" dishonors, highlighting egregiously anti-gay behavior worthy of a gay travel advisory. Among the worst:
For the 12th straight year, Sandals Resorts' continued discrimination landed them on the "Rock Bottom" list, which comprises an infamous -- yet ever-shrinking -- group of places. Although the resort stated publicly that they changed their "heterosexual couples only" policy, OUT&ABOUT Travel received an internal memo Sandals sent to their sales agents last year that stated, ' we will continue to market exclusively to conventional male/female couples in love. There will be no departure from this original market niche.'
For its harshly-worded constitutional marriage ban, Ohio made the list. On the bright side, some of the state's travel industry marketers are taking steps to reach out to LGBT travelers. Also, places such as The Cincinnatian Hotel are providing a friendly oasis in a state with an otherwise un-accepting political climate.
"The travel industry has really opened its eyes to the potential of the LGBT market, which collectively spends $54 billion a year on travel," said Mark Elderkin, president of PlanetOut Inc. "For gay travelers and those targeting them, the marketplace has increasingly moved online. Gay.com and PlanetOut.com offer extensive branded content, such as reviews from OUT&ABOUT Travel and TravelGuides, sponsored by advertisers who are smitten with this Internet-savvy, travel-happy demographic. Online travel services such as Travelocity, as well as airlines, hotels, cruise ships and destinations, are reaching out to the LBGT audience, which goes online to do everything from booking flights to finding accommodations to shopping for travel gear."
When the OUT&ABOUT Travel Awards first came out in 1992, only a handful of destinations actively marketed to LGBT travelers. Today, at least 60 destinations worldwide are vigorously courting this lucrative market, including such unexpected locales as Philadelphia and Madison, Wisc., as well as countries with obvious appeal, such as Canada, England and France.
An indication of the changing times came at the recent 91st Annual Conference of the Destination Marketing Association International (formerly the IACVB), in San Diego, Aug. 3-6, where Salvato became one of the first gay travel experts to be asked to speak at the conference. His panel was filled to capacity and drew surprising attention from locales such as Fargo, N.D.; Dayton, Ohio and Grand Junction, Colo.
"Even just a few years ago it would have been shocking for these destinations to even display interest in this segment," said Salvato. "More destinations are recognizing that, compared to their straight counterparts, dual-income gay people travel more frequently and more spontaneously, spend more money and are more likely to own a passport and travel internationally.
"Moreover, this is a segment that has more disposable income and more time to use it, and that has proven resilient in the face of economic downturns, terrorist events and other calamities that have recently befallen the travel industry," he added.
The OUT&ABOUT Travel Awards are chosen on the basis of excellence, innovation and solid gay-family travel values. While there is no formal process for nominating and judging of the awards, the winners are places Salvato and the OUT&ABOUT Travel experts would recommend personally to friends.
For a full list of best and worst in gay travel, including accommodations and dining recommendations, please visit Gay.com/travel or PlanetOut.com/travel.
Destination of The Year
Top Five Gay Resort Towns
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Key West, Fla.
Palm Springs, Calif.
Top 10 Domestic Destinations
New York City
Top 10 International Destinations
Central and South America
Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Saint Petersburg, Fla.
Santa Fe, N.M.
Salt Lake City
Great Gay Marketing
Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas
W Hotels Worldwide
Song (Operated by Delta Air Lines)
Parks and Resorts at Yosemite National Park, Special Mention
Arco Iris Tours
Doin' It Right Puerto Vallarta
European Bed & Breakfast
Women's Awards: Inns and Restaurants
Casitas Laquita, Palm Springs, Calif.
Fairbanks Inn, Provincetown, Mass.
Gabriel's, Provincetown, Mass.
Highlands Inn, Bethlehem, N.H.
Hotel San Jose, Austin, Texas
Hotel Sappho, Lesbos, Greece
Lindsey's B&B, Montreal
Naari Guesthouse, Delhi, India
Pearl's Rainbow, Key West, Fla.
Citizen Cake, San Francisco
Jardinière, San Francisco
Malaprop's Bookstore & Café, Asheville, N.C.
Murakami, Los Angeles
Prune, New York City
She She, Chicago
Tenth Muse, Lesbos, Greece
Watershed, Decatur, Georgia
Events/Organizers of The Year For Lesbians
Michigan Womyn's Music Festival
Dinah Shore Weekend
Events/Organizers Of The Year For Gay And Lesbians (And More) Burning Man
Montréal's Gay Pride
International Mr. Leather
Lake Tahoe Winter Fest
Park City Utah Queer Lounge
Rock Bottom Designees
Cromsaig B&B in Scotland
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