The 14th annual Community Marketing Inc. survey of the travel habits of gays and lesbians was released yesterday. You can download it here. There are significant flaws in the methodology of this study, namely that there's no way to know what the demographic universe of all gay people are because so many are closeted, would never respond to surveys, may not even self-identify as gay or other reasons. All of this is acknowledged by CMI.
Some examples include gay microsites for Luxor, Paris and Encore Las Vegas:
These efforts appears to have really paid off among this polled set. When respondents were asked to fill in a blank for in the destination that they felt had done the best job in outreaching to the LGBT community, Las Vegas was No. 1 with 11%, followed by San Francisco at 10%, Fort Lauderdale at 7%, Philadelphia at 6%, Provincetown at 5%, and London at 5%.
And here's the big one:
1) New York City: 32%
2) San Francisco: 27%
3) Las Vegas: 26%
4) Chicago: 25%
5) Los Angeles / West Hollywood: 24%
6) Washington, DC: 23%
7) Fort Lauderdale: 17%
8) San Diego: 15%
9) Orlando: 14%
9) Seattle: 14%
11) Boston: 13%
11) Philadelphia: 13%
13) Palm Springs 12%
13) Atlanta: 12%
13) Miami: 12%
16) Dallas: 11%
16) Denver: 11%
16) Phoenix/Tempe/Scottsdale: 11%
19) New Orleans: 10%
20) Napa County, CA: 9%
20) Provincetown, MA: 9%
20) Sonoma County, CA: 9%
23) Portland, OR 8%
23) Baltimore: 8%
23) Tampa/St. Pete: 8%
It gets better for Vegas -- and worse. Vegas was No. 2 in leisure travel behind New York and AHEAD of San Francisco, L.A. and Chicago and also No. 2 among gays and lesbians over 62 and between 18 and 32.
However, Vegas is not even in the top five for business travel and that's surprising given that the city's convention business overall dwarfs those on the list and, in fact, all other U.S. convention destinations. The sheer numbers of all people who come here for business meetings alone would seem to demand that Vegas end up among the leaders in this segment.
Also, somewhat surprising and extremely suspicious to me is that Las Vegas ranked as the No. 1 destination among "American Lesbians" (in quotes because there's something odd about that phrase, as if we're speaking of a breed of bird which, I suppose, we are.)
This is a city with not a single lesbian bar. In my capacity as a blogger, podcaster, travel journalist and author of the only gay guidebook ever written about Vegas, I rarely hear from lesbians asking questions or making comments about Vegas matters. So my sense is that this outcome is suspect. Could it be a combination of the fact that only 25 percent of the respondents were lesbians and that a plurality (13 percent) of the total respondents from the U.S. live in California? We'd then be looking at a very small pool of lesbians, of which a large portion would be coming from the nearest state to Vegas? Could that also explain how Vegas can outrank uber-gay San Francisco because, perhaps, a lot of respondents actually live there and thus wouldn't go on vacation there?
There were some contradictions embedded in the study's outcome, too. For example, CMI reported that "going to neighborhood restaurants and visiting the gay neighborhood were the top activities enjoyed by gays and lesbians when visiting a destination." So how does Vegas do so well when all we have are a pair of small gay bar districts and no gay ghetto, just as the city has none of the other ethnic or cultural neighborhoods. Chinatown, for instance, is a series of Asian-themed strip malls, not where Asian people actually live. Same for the gays. If this is the top motivation for gay travelers, they're not finding it in their second-favorite destination.
But the flip side of this is more support for a contention I've made for years that Vegas is the ultimate post-gay destination, the place where gays -- like everyone else -- come for a mainstream vacation. The Strip has lots to appeal to the traditional interests of, at least, gay men -- Broadway shows, male revues, high-end shopping, fine dining, luxurious spa experiences -- and can appeal to gays like Miles and myself who do not seek a "gay" experience when we travel. We just want to enjoy the same things as everyone else.
What all of this adds up to is unclear. I recall prior years' surveys coming up with similar findings including the strange Lesbians-Heart-Vegas stat, which isn't surprising when you realize that Community Marketing Inc. says respondents come from a database they've compiled. So it could very well be the same people being asked the same questions year after year.
So take this material for what it is. As I said, I wouldn't invest too much stock in it except that the LVCVA and others really do.