Philadelphia wants piece of gay tourism pie
November 15 2003 12:00 AM ET
Although Philadelphia doesn't have the flamboyance of San Francisco or the glam of Miami's South Beach, tourism officials there think the city is ready to join the short but growing list of places with a reputation as gay-friendly travel destinations. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. on Thursday unveiled a $300,000 marketing campaign that will promote the city's historical attractions
as well as its small but increasingly hip gay district in an attempt to grab a piece of a niche travel market worth an estimated $54 billion a year. "The gay traveler has been to San Francisco. They've been to Provincetown, Mass. They are interested in going to more than the gay meccas," said John Cochie, cofounder of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus. "We think they're ready for an Eagles game."
Starting in December, the campaign will be advertising the city in gay publications and on the Internet. Comcast Corp., the cable TV giant, has also offered to produce a television advertisement aimed at gay day-trippers in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, officials said. The sales effort will revolve around the slogan "Get your history straight and your nightlife gay" and will include print ads that feature some cleverly doctored images from American history, including Ben Franklin flying a rainbow-colored kite and Betsy Ross sewing a rainbow flag. Philadelphia is only the latest North American city to try its luck courting gays and lesbians. Tourism officials in Washington, D.C.; Palm Springs, Calif.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Montreal have all marketed themselves to gay travelers with print and Internet advertising.
Philadelphia might, on the surface, seem like a slightly tougher sell. As cities go, its reputation has always been more blue collar than cosmopolitan. Businesses here still shutter en masse on Sundays; Pennsylvania's morals run more conservative than nearby New York. But the city has a thriving nine-block gay district peppered with clubs, newly opened restaurants, and shops; marketing analysts said it might have significant appeal to gay couples who aren't looking for wild night life. Community Marketing Inc., which was commissioned by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. to assist in the campaign, said surveys of gay travelers showed that a majority are affluent and in committed relationships. "Gay travelers want the same thing as straight travelers want," Cochie said.
"They just want to be in an environment that is safe, that is friendly, that is welcoming."