Just days from now, a city well-known as a mecca for gay and lesbian tourists looking for warm and welcoming travel destinations, will be opening doors to tourists who are transgender.
As our sibling publication OutTravelerreported last fall, the Florida city is one of the first U.S. destinations to specifically target transgender travelers, and beginning September 29 will host the Southern Comfort Conference, described as the largest transgender conference in the country.
The event, drawing about 1,000 attendees annually, has been an Atlanta fixture for the past 24 years. In 2013, Richard Gray, the managing director of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, reached out to event organizer Lexi Dee and made his pitch.
"No one had ever courted them or paid them any attention before," Gray told The New York Times. "They liked our commitment of raising the bar for trans inclusion. Around the same time, I organized a round-table discussion with some national leaders and also met with the research firm Community Marketing & Insights to put a transgender travel study together, because there had never been one."
From the travel survey, Gray learned that 62 percent of transgender travelers vacation alone. "Unlike the gay market, trans travelers are more in line with budget travelers, without a lot of disposable income," Gray said.
He told the paper the biggest concerns for transgender travelers were physical and verbal violence and lack of gender-neutral restrooms. To combat some of these concerns, he has rolled out sensitivity training for hospitality partners and started a new website.
He decided to put the "T" first in the common acronym because he told the paper he wanted transgender travelers to know the city was committed to them. "The one thing the trans market has in common with the LGBT market," Gray said, "is we've all experienced discrimination, safety issues and a lack of acceptance. I want trans people to be like all travelers -- free to be themselves, free to be accepted and, most of all, welcome and safe."