Provincetown Life Information
By TROY PETENBRINK | Houston Voice
Life partners Deb Hyman and Paula Morris own and operate a Signs by Tomorrow franchise in Silver Spring, Md., and often find themselves working late into the evenings and weekends. They look forward to the times when they can get away.
Hyman and Morris have averaged an annual vacation for each of their 21 years together. Their travels have included trips to London, Cancun, Montreal, Key West and Chicago as well as an Olivia Caribbean cruise. They rank a trip to Hawaii as their best vacation.
“We like vacation spots that have a gay population,” says Hyman. “We might not go to a place if it is not considered gay-friendly.”
Hyman and Morris are not alone in their desire to travel. U.S. gays and lesbians represent a $65 billion-travel market, according to estimates by Community Marketing, a San Francisco-based consulting company that specializes in the gay travel market.
It’s not clear what percentage of the total gay travel marketplace lesbians occupy.
“Unlike the information available regarding gay men, it is currently difficult to find a complete body of segmented knowledge regarding lesbians’ travel habits,” says Bob Witeck, CEO of Witeck Combs Communications. Witeck’s D.C.-based company, in partnership with Harris Interactive, conducts-frequent national surveys of gay consumers.-
BUT THERE IS no doubt in some people’s minds that lesbians represent a significant portion of the travel market. Philadelphia, which made history by investing $1 million in a three-year campaign to attract gay travelers, recently announced that it would extend the city’s message of brotherly-—-and sisterly-—-love to be more inclusive of lesbians.
The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, which directs the campaign, found through its surveying of gay visitors to Philadelphia that lesbian travelers spend, on average, the same amount of cash per day ($233) as gay men. Lesbians, however, stay for a shorter period of time, on average (1.8 nights), compared to gay men (2.4 nights).
GPTMC’s goal is to increase the length of time lesbian visitors stay as well as the overall number of women visiting the city by highlighting all there is to see and do in Philadelphia, including historic sites, artistic and cultural attractions, shops, restaurants and a visible lesbian nightlife scene.
Jeff Guaracino, who directs the gay marketing campaign and serves as a spokesperson for-GPTMC, believes Philadelphia’s drive to attract lesbian travelers is good business and “the right thing to do.”
“We have come to learn that the gay travel market is actually-two very distinct markets: male-and female,” says Guaracino. “And I-think Philadelphia has an opportunity to position itself as a top travel destination for lesbians. And we want lesbians to know that they are just as welcome in Philadelphia as gay men, and they will find lots to do here-— both day and night.”
Some of the changes GPTMC is making to it gay outreach efforts include-having more lesbian-specific advertising, sponsorship of lesbian events such as Dinah Shore Weekend and placing additional information of interest to lesbians-on its website (http://www.gophila.com/gay).
THOUGH PHILLY IS the first to launch such a substantial push to bring lesbians to its city, other destinations have long appreciated their lesbian visitors.
Provincetown’s Women’s Week (Oct. 6-15), sponsored by the Women Innkeepers of Provincetown, has been attracting lesbians to its seaside shores for more than 20 years, and has been a driving factor in making the city a popular year-round destination for lesbians.
Research by Community Marketing found that Provincetown ranked as the No. 1 destination among self-identified lesbians.
Jody Struve and Erinn Auletta, who live in New Jersey and take a couple of vacations each year, have visited Provincetown previously. They are expecting their first child in April, and are already considering a future return to P-Town for its annual gay Family Pride Week (July 29-Aug. 5), which is popular among lesbians and gay men with children.
“It will be very important for us to include vacations where, without a doubt, we’d know our child and family would feel safe and able to be who we are, relax and have fun,” says Struve.
In Florida, the long-running Womenfest (Sept. 5-10) in Key West, which attracts more than 4,000 women annually to party on the United States’ southernmost point, has been joined in recent years by two other events: Miami Beach’s Aqua Girl (May 11-14) and Orlando’s Girls in Wonderland (June 1-5) — a counterpoint to the male-dominated Gay Days in Disney World that takes place every spring.
Though open to all women, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Aug. 8-13) has become a mainstay on the lesbian travel circuit. Not only does this annual event filled with workshops, sports and entertainment, attract thousands of lesbian attendees from across the nation and around the world, it has played host to numerous lesbian performers such as Le Tigre, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Betty and the Indigo Girls.
Last year, Palm Springs, Calif., had a record number of women attend Dinah Shore Weekend (March 29-April 2), an annual extended weekend of girl-powered events centered around the Kraft Nabisco Championship Golf Tournament. This year’s event is scheduled to include a comedy night, numerous social events and performances by Taylor Dayne and Carmen Electra.
Sandy Sachs who produces the event with her partner in business and life, Dr. Robin Gans, says, “This year is truly an electrifying Dinah Shore Weekend talent line-up.” In addition to organizing Dinah Shore Weekend, Sachs and Gans operate Girl Bar, an entertainment company that sponsors weekly lesbian events in Las Vegas and Los Angles.
ONE OF THE best-known names in the lesbian travel arena is Olivia. Originally started as the first women-owned independent record label, Olivia morphed into what can only be described as the mother of all lesbian travel companies.
It hosted just two all-female cruises when it entered the market in 1990. This year the company will sponsor 15 events including women’s cruises and resort vacations, family trips and mixed lesbian and gay active vacations. The company also sponsors prominent lesbian athletes, like Houston’s WNBA player Cheryl Swoopes, and was even featured in Showtime’s hit drama “The L Word.” It has experienced a remarkable 40 percent annual growth rate, with expected 2005 revenues of $21 million.
Olivia’s CEO Amy Errett credits the company’s success to its deep understanding and experience with the lesbian travel market. Witeck noted that Olivia’s special expertise in women’s travel likely makes it the leading authority on lesbian travel as well as a leading brand.
“We put the ‘L’ in LGBT travel marketing,” says Errett. “We understand what these women want. We are creating a space for women to be truly who they are.”
And Olivia is working hard to expand that space. Last month, Olivia launched a branded credit card program in partnership with MBNA America Bank. The card is linked to MBNA’s WorldPoints program and allows users to earn points that can be used for various rewards including many travel-related items: car rentals, hotel stays and airline tickets.
Olivia is also planning a new membership program focused on creating benefits for the gay community. According to Errett, the program will provide “AARP-type” benefits to its members including savings opportunities for travel. The company is also exploring expanding into the development of resort retirement communities.
The company’s focus remains on its core lesbian constituency. But Errett says just like its traditional travel offerings anyone who wishes will be able to participate.
Following in Olivia’s fertile footsteps is 12 Muses, a new female-owned travel company that has announced a series of trips for 2006.
Margo Maller, a travel-industry veteran who has spent more than a dozen years leading small-ship educational cruises for alumni and cultural groups, founded 12 Muses to provide travel experiences to women who want both physical comforts and intellectual stimulation. Many of the company’s trips will be limited to no more than 34 individuals.
The five programs for 2006 include a culinary cruise to Southern Italy and Sicily in April; the Greek Isles in late May/early June; golfing in Scotland in July; Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest in September and Southern Turkey in November.
Each of the company’s trips will include a “featured muse,” such as women’s studies pioneer Lillian Faderman, poet Honor Moore, marriage historian Stephanie Coontz, archaeologist Cheryl Ward and golf pro Patty Rizzo.
Experts believe creating a travel “experience,” beyond just visiting a new destination is an important factor among lesbian travelers, whether they are traveling on their own or as part of an organized trip.
“Women are looking for a holistic experience. They are looking for connections. They appreciate cultural things,” comments Errett.
“There is no question in my mind – this market is going to grow.”
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