That's the word
from Dallas tourism officials attempting to lure gay and
lesbian visitors with a message that the city is a great
place for them to spend their time and money.
''Big D'' is a
diverse metropolitan area that ''has left behind
stereotypes of big-haired women and rowdy cowboys--that is,
unless you count sassy drag queens and strapping gay
rodeo champs,'' according to a Web site operated by
the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.
''Our Secret Is
Out,'' proclaims the site, which features images of
same-sex couples enjoying the local sights.
''It's not about
being politically correct, it's about being economically
correct,'' said Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the
tourism bureau. He said gay travelers spend an average
of $100 more per day than other travelers and plan
four to six trips a year.
appeals won over the Washington, D.C.-based
Family Pride Coalition. The gay family advocacy group
conducted its national conference in Dallas last month
after the bureau made a presentation at the
organization's D.C. office.
members were initially reluctant to bring their meeting to
Texas--where a same-sex marriage ban passed with the support
of 76% of voters last year--Dallas was chosen over
Minneapolis and Chicago, said the group's executive
director, Jennifer Chrisler.
''There's a very
large and vibrant gay parenting community in Dallas and
an even larger gay and lesbian community in Texas--that
coupled with the fact that Texas is a place where
there is still a lot of work to be done to educate
people about gays and lesbians and what their lives are
like, what their families are like,'' she said. ''It
really made Dallas the right choice at the right
With about 250
people attending, Jones said, winning the Family Pride
conference was the bureau's biggest success so far. The
weekend drew rave reviews.
''I think it was
an extraordinarily positive experience in that most of
the participants found Dallas to be a warm, receptive,
inviting place for them,'' Chrisler said.
gay-oriented meetings have come to the city since the
promotion began two years ago, Jones said. About six
events are scheduled over the next year, including a
bureau put up the Web site this year, listing more than 20
gay-friendly hotels, shopping areas, tourist attractions,
and nightclubs. ''We've come a long way since the days
of the saloon,'' the site says. ''Everyone should
experience the queer life and rich history of this
The effort may
already be paying dividends. A survey conducted this year
by San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc. lists
Dallas tied with San Diego as the seventh top business
destination for gay travelers.
''I believe it's
grown from no image to a positive image just in the last
year to two years, and it's definitely been because of the
efforts of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, their
members and partners,'' said Tom Nibbio, world
membership and development manager at the Fort Lauderdale,
Fla.-based International Gay and Lesbian Travel
Jones took over
as head of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau in
late 2003 and began conducting market research to replace a
stale perception of the city rooted in the 1980s
television show Dallas.
''One of the
things that most surprised me about Dallas was the
incredible diversity,'' Jones said. ''We have 120,000 GLBT
households in the Dallas area.''
The bureau spends
$50,000 a year of its $14 million budget to attract gay
tourists. But Jones acknowledges that the effort will not
make the city competitive with places like San
Francisco or Las Vegas.
''In Texas and
the Southwest, Dallas has sort of taken the lead. We're
not going to be a national destination,'' Jones said. ''If
you're looking for your first visit to a gay-friendly
destination, it's not going to be Dallas.... We're
trying to position Dallas as an appealing destination
for GLBT travelers.''
Not everyone who
has seen the Web site approves.
''I was quite
surprised that they were reaching out in such a way,'' said
Cathie Adams, president of the conservative Dallas-based
Texas Eagle Forum.
Adams said she
doesn't think that the appeals pay off. And she says the
campaign could send potential new residents to surrounding
same-sex activities that would be offensive to the majority
of families is not profitable, economically or socially,''
she said. ''If you are wanting families to move into
the city of Dallas, are you going to show them such a
promotion? I doubt it.''
Jones said it is
unlikely that most people will ever view their targeted
appeals, unless they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or
''We'd be foolish
not to position Dallas as a destination for this
market, which spends a lot of money on travel,'' he said.