Orlando LGBT Visitors Bureau Steps Into Fray with Fundamentalist Religious Group

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Amid Controversy, OrlandoGayTravel.com is Rallying Support for Aerial Banners Over Disney in Response to a Local Group’s Decision to “Warn” Tourist of Gays in the Parks.

Efforts to bring tens of thousands of visitors to the city beautiful could be jeopardized if plans by a local group to scare gay tourist are carried through. Orlando’s official LGBT Convention and Visitors Bureau (http://www.OrlandoGayTravel.com) is raising money to fly a banner saying “Gay Friendly, Everyone Friendly!” over the theme parks during the June 1st-3rd Gay Days weekend in response to a local group’s efforts to warn visitors of gays in the parks.

According to their homepage at FloridaFriendly.org, the Florida Family Association (FFA) plans a repeat of last year’s banner in the sky warning visitors of gays at the Walt Disney World Resort during the annual celebration. Another group, that calls themselves “the Non-A-Holes” in their YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RgJg6U5rCg), is also raising money for a banner proclaiming “Warning: Homophobes loose in Orlando. Hide your Kids!” OrlandoGayTravel.com hopes to be the voice of reason in the battle of the sky.

OrlandoGayTravel.com, the official non-profit LGBT Convention and Visitors Bureau, was founded last year to encourage lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) travel and to make vacationers see how gay-friendly Central Florida is. The Orlando area is one of the top 10 most visited places for LGBT tourists and numbers from the American Hotel and Lodging Association estimate gay travelers spent $3.0 Billion last year in Orlando.

“It’s clear that LGBT visitation is important not only to the tourist sector but to the whole local economy,” says OrlandoGayTravel.com Executive Director Mikael Audebert. “Scaring this segment of the population off is simply not wise and that is why we are putting a banner in the air during Gay Days to welcome LGBT visitors,” added Audebert.

The FFA says on its website it’s raised $4,100 and are looking to raise twice as much to fly banners because they contend their warning was successful last year in chasing off mainstream visitors. But OrlandoGayTravel.com officials say that wasn’t the case.
“Hospitality industry expert told us that last year’s American Family Association action did nothing to reduce total attendance at Orlando attractions over the Gay Days weekend,” says OrlandoGayTravel.com Marketing Director Paul Queen.

“But our bureau fears an unchallenged repeat of last year’s stunt might plant the idea in the minds of LGBT tourists that Orlando may not be welcoming to them. If that message persists, it could suppress visitation during the rest of the year. That is why we must act to get out the truth—Orlando is welcoming to everyone, including gays and lesbians,” Queen added.
Queen says the plan is to use a primary banner saying “Gay Friendly, Everyone Friendly!” And as funds allow adding more banners saying “Welcome LGBT Visitors” and “Thanks LGBT for $3.0 Billion.”

OrlandoGayTravel.com officials say they have are asking for public contributions for the “Gay-Friendly Sky Campaign” and have set up a special website to collect donations at: http://www.orlandogaytravel.com/friendlysky

The gay visitors bureau officials say they did not budget for any type of banner promotion this year and their next expenditures are committed to getting Orlando featured in gay and lesbian travel guides and hosting groups of travel writers. Making request for public donations to pay for this specific campaign allows them to continue these other vital communications initiatives that are identified in their marketing plan. Thus far in 2012, to build the Orlando brand for gay and lesbian travelers, the organization has:

  • Launched a comprehensive travel website at http://www.orlandogaytravel.com
  • Filed a preliminary request, along with The Central Florida Sports Commission, to host the 2018 Gay games, with 15,000 participants and 200,000 attendees
  • Secured, with the Shades of Green at Walt Disney World, the first LGBT convention for OutServe, the association of actively serving LGBT military personnel
  • Created a special magazine advertising insert, with Visit Orlando, distributed by Visit Florida and seen by 600,000 potential visitors
  • Promoted Orlando at the Annual Global Gay Travel Show in Brazil, sponsored by the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association

“I know that every Orlando-area travel organization invites all visitors to come and enjoy our attractions, entertainment, top-flight hotels and wonderful restaurants,” says Queen,
“No one is ever singled out for exclusion. It is simply impossible to denigrate gay visitors the first weekend in June then tell them to keep coming at other times of the year. It is time to stand up and show what an open and inclusive place we are to all our visitors,” Queen said.

Gay Day Organizers say the week-long event starts Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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