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Arizona cities
try to woo gay tourists

Arizona cities
try to woo gay tourists

Conservatives may be working to add a measure banning same-sex marriage to the Arizona ballot, but cities across the state are working to welcome more gay tourists. The cities are vying for a slice of an estimated $65 billion gay travel market. To do that, cities are marketing the area as a cosmopolitan, tolerant place to vacation.

"My money spends like anyone else's," said Albuquerque resident Andee Henderson, 38, who was among the estimated crowd of 5,000 attending the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association's annual competition at Rawhide over the weekend.

With an 89-page visitors' and relocation guide published by the Phoenix gay chamber of commerce flying off the shelves, Phoenix leaders are planning to discuss ways to strengthen the city's gay tourism plan. Officials in Tucson, Sedona, Bisbee, and Jerome say they informally angle for those visitors.

Tempe is in the midst of a sophisticated campaign to lure gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender travelers. The campaign began three years ago with careful research, said Stephanie Nowack, president and chief executive of the Tempe Convention and Visitors Bureau. The city later joined industry groups, sent city employees to conferences, bought ads in gay publications, and launched a Web portal for LGBT visitors. "I come from Fort Lauderdale, and I like places like that, where it's OK, if I have a boyfriend, to hold his hand," said Alan Stark, 43.

But not everyone supports the cities' campaign. Leo Godzich, president of the National Association of Marriage Enhancement, says the cities risk destroying the Grand Canyon State's family-friendly reputation by trying to wrangle in gay tourists. "Our tourism dollars should be spent on the bulk of the population, not 2% of the population," Godzich said. (AP)

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