Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gays: Vegas is No. 1!

Well, sorta. In a few ways.

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.

But this study of 7,078 GLBT volunteer respondents -- about 4,000 of whom live in the U.S. -- is, nonetheless, extraordinarily influential and no more so than here. Its findings earlier this decade that gays and lesbians heart Las Vegas as much or more than New York and San Francisco was directly responsible for the decisions of MGM Mirage, Harrah's, Wynn Resorts and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to begin the aggressive GLBT marketing efforts we've witnessed.

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:

Top 25 US Destinations for American LGBT Travelers, with percentage who visited and spent a night in a hotel (as Combined Leisure & Business Travel Ranking)

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.


Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that an LGBT marketing firm has ample reasons to skew these results. And that's aside from the fact their methodologies would get them a failing grade in any respectable stats class. "Significant flaws," indeed.

Provincetown lower when Phoenix? New Orleans lower than Denver?

mike_ch said...

Vegas has mainstream shows featuring naked women and can't advertise anything, from a spa to a buffet, without teasing nudity. That is, just my opinion, the appeal to lesbians.

Last I checked, NYNY also had a gay travel minipage.

detroit1051 said...

"Vegas is the ultimate post-gay destination, the place where gays -- like everyone else -- come for a mainstream vacation."
You've said it all. Gays certainly don't fly across the country for the bars in Las Vegas, and I'm not sure there are any gay restaurants there any more. Years ago, there was a restaurant on Russell somewhere west of the Strip which was pleasant. Straight or gay, people come to Las Vegas for the casinos, shows, dining and other mainstream entertainment.

atdnext said...


Yep, yep, yep. Vegas really doesn't have the "gay ghettos" that SF or LA can regularly boast of... "The Fruit Loop" and Commercial Center are mostly just "mini strips" of bars and a few other businesses. But OTOH, Harrah's, Wynn, and MGM Mirage have all made a HUGE effort to lure LGBTQ travelers and turn The Strip into a more queer-friendly environment. Obviously, their efforts are paying off.

Mr. Steve-

Well, come on. There are naked lady images all over this town, and stripper joints as far as the eye can see! I guess enough lesbians are liking the "eye candy" to forgive the shortage of ladies' clubs. :-p

Anonymous said...

"Chinatown, for instance, is a series of Asian-themed strip malls, not where Asian people actually live."

But Las Vegas certainly is the place where Asians play in a CASINO. It's a stereotype, but Asians DO like to gamble. They are at home in the gambling dens. They also enjoy a great bargain so the casinos need to be more generous with the comps.

As for the "closeted, would never respond to surveys, may not even self-identify as gay or other reasons"

I wouldn't worry about them since they will likely respond to other marketing messages.

GregoryZephyr said...

Earlier in my career I managed a market research function so I have some familiarity with the limitations of these studies. One note on the seeming contradiction between favoorite destination and reasons for choosing that destination. Since Vegas is so different then, say, San Francisco, it's not entirely accurate to combine the total survey responses for the "where" question with the total survey responses to the "why" question.

Another example is suppose you survey Californians on favorite places in CA and you found that Disneyland was number 1 and Yosemite was number 2. Then you asked them why and their responses in total were that "Exciting thrill rides" was the number one reason and "beautiful natural scenery" was number two. Obviously, the "why" question would be very different depending on how you answer the "where" question.

What would be helpful would be for the survey to show the top "why" reasons for those who said Vegas was number one since that group may be somewhat different than those who said that NY or SF was their number one destination choice.