By Joe D'Alessandro,
President & CEO,
San Francisco Travel Association
It is said that the first gay visitors to San Francisco came with the Gold Rush of 1849. That makes sense. These people had been persecuted and ostracized.With no home to call their own and nothing to lose, why not venture out to this alluring place called San Francisco?Here, everyone was new in town and judgments were left behind.
Over time, the LGBT community grew in North Beach, then in the Haight, then on Polk Street and then in the Castro, which is now known worldwide as â€śthe gay Mecca.â€ť Today, it is difficult to find a neighborhood in San Francisco that doesnâ€™t have an LGBT presence.
San Francisco is now considered one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the US and the world, a fact that is backed up by research, media polls and comments from LGBT visitors.
So strong is San Franciscoâ€™s attraction to gay travelers that other cities try to position themselves as â€śthe next San Francisco.â€ť However, those other cities donâ€™t also have Castro Street, the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, famous restaurants, world class arts and culture, and Wine Country nearby.
San Francisco Travel (formerly called the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau) is San Franciscoâ€™s official destination marketing organization. We promote all that San Francisco has to offer â€śon the menuâ€ť for visitors.
The proud history and vibrancy of the LGBT community make San Francisco all the more inviting, interesting and unique. That was one of the things that convinced me to move here in 2006 with my husband and my two children.
San Francisco Travel has been promoting San Francisco to the gay and lesbian market since the early 1990â€™s and before. We began marketing campaigns specifically for LGBT travelers five years ago and have recently launched a new campaign, â€ś49 Hours of SF: Out & About.â€ť The advertising and promotions target LGBT travelers in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle. To emphasize the diversity of San Franciscoâ€™s neighborhoods, one of the headlines on the ads reads, â€śSan Franciscoâ€™s Gay Neighborhood is called - San Francisco.â€ť
The strategy is to leverage the cityâ€™s gay-friendly atmosphere to drive new visits to San Francisco, and to provide those who have visited previously with reasons to come again. The digital and print campaign drives to the LGBT microsite, www.sanfrancisco.travel/LGBT, which provides LGBT itineraries, event information and â€śOut with the Localsâ€ť columns featuring LGBT localsâ€™ picks on what to see and do. GayCities, Kimpton Hotels and American Express are the official sponsors of the campaign.
According to the Wall Street Journal, there are approximately 16 million gay adults in the United States with projected spending power of $790 million (â€śMore Retailers Are Courting Gay Customers,â€ť July 9, 2012).
In June, San Francisco Travel presented its Silver Cable Car Award to author Armistead Maupin for all that his â€śTales of the Cityâ€ť books and films have done for San Francisco. It was announced only two days before the presentation that Armistead and his husband were moving to Santa Fe. His acceptance speech brought many to tears.
In 2008, San Francisco Travel led a sales mission to Sydney, Australia, including meetings and events with travel agents and tour operators throughout the nation, parties MCed by entertainer Heklina and a float in the sister cityâ€™s Pride Parade. Our Tourism division continues to work closely with gay tour operators and travel agents from around the world.
The Media Relations department issues press releases specifically for the LGBT media and engages drag entertainer and writer Donna Sachet to write specifically for gay/lesbian audiences.
We have identified five key marketing themes to help communicate all that is â€śon the menuâ€ť for our visitors: Arts & Culture, Food & Wine, Diverse Neighborhoods, Sustainability and LGBT Welcome.
The themes overlap and intertwine, creating the intricate tapestry that draws visitors from around the world.
Gay lesbian travel is one of our strongest markets. Once they visit, they return again and again. They love every inch of the city, from the Castro to the Mission to Landâ€™s End. They bring economic impact to be sure. But they also bring a spirit that is right at home in San Francisco.
The San Francisco Travel Association is the official tourism marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. For information on reservations, packages, activities and more, visit www.sanfrancisco.travel or call 415-391-2000. The Visitor Information Center is located at 900 Market St. in Hallidie Plaza, lower level, near the Powell Street cable car turnaround.