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When singer Connie Francis mused on “Where the Boys Are” in the early 1960s, the answer was sunny Fort Lauderdale. She was, of course, talking about boys who like girls. But decades later the city has become an out and proud queer mecca boasting numerous bars, shops and guesthouses—aimed primarily at gay men. But Richard Gray, longtime city advocate, former resort owner and current LGBTQ Managing Director for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, aims to swing the doors open even wider to embrace transgendered people—a community that has thus far been underserved by the travel industry. The city recently became the first in the world to launch a marketing campaign, “Where Happy Meets Lucky,”  and corresponding web page aimed at trans travelers as part of its commitment to ensuring the sun-drenched city is welcoming to all. We recently spoke with Gray to find out how the city is adding a capital “T” to Fort Lauderdale.

RELATED: 10 hottest LGBTQ destinations for 2017


In what ways is Fort Lauderdale becoming a “go to” destination for transgendered travelers?

Richard Gray We are the first destination in the world that includes transgender models in our new global mainstream marketing campaign. We launched this campaign on New Year’s Eve in Times Square with a billboard video featuring Isabella Santiago, a Venezuelan model and former 2014 Miss World Transgender. Using trans models in our mainstream campaign says who we are as a destination—cosmopolitan, edgy, diverse, inclusive, authentic and accepting. This shows our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality.

We are also the new home of the Southern Comfort Transgender Conference in September, which was moved from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale in 2015 when we became the first destination in the World to launch a trans campaign, “Where Happy Meets Go Lucky.”

Photo courtesy of Greater Fort Lauderdale


What is it that trans travelers look for in a destination?

RG Safety is paramount for trans travelers. When I say safety, I mean both physical and verbal. Local legislation protection for transgender people is also a major deciding factor for trans travelers when selecting a city.

How can a destination make this community feel welcome?

RG When we launched our trans campaign, it was critical to have the support of our local community and our police department, as well as our elected officials. We offer sensitivity training to our hospitality partners. We also launched a transgender landing page for trans travelers. sunny.org/tlgb. I placed the T in front of LGB to show our commitment and support to the trans community.

Being authentic is key. Greater Fort Lauderdale welcomes ALL travelers, irrespective of their religion, the color of their skin, their sexuality or how they identify. We want all travelers that visit our fabulous destination to feel free to be themselves, free to be accepted, feel welcome and most of all safe.

ALSO: Get more bang for your Florida buck by signing up for Orbitz Rewards!

Photo courtesy of Greater Fort Lauderdale

Does the trans community have favored destinations? If so, what are they?

RG In 2014 we released the first ever transgender travel survey that we commissioned with Community Marketing & Insights. One of the key findings we learned was that most transgender people are stealth. Often their own partners do not know that they are trans. We learned that they do travel for leisure and business, and that they prefer to stay in medium-sized hotels. Popular destinations for the trans community are traditionally popular
destinations such as New York City, San Francisco, Washington DC and Las Vegas. Fort Lauderdale featured in the top 10.

Do you predict an upward growth from this community? Will other industry professionals begin courting them?

RG We are already seeing an increase in transgender travelers as they learn how progressive and accepting Greater Fort Lauderdale is. I believe that that other destinations should market to the trans community, but I [also] believe that few destinations will have the courage to develop and execute such an inclusive and diverse marketing campaign as ours.

Featured image courtesy of Greater Fort Lauderdale

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Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is an associate editor at Orbitz, a social media marketing consultant and a freelance cultural reporter for numerous publications. His works has been featured in the Huffington Post, Time Out, Passport, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and many others.
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Chicago hotels ByErin Kregor

The holidays are stealthily creeping up on us this year, so get out those credit cards and get cracking on your gift list. Here’s a list of my top 5 places to shop.

1.    Michigan Avenue, Chicago: It may be because of the home-court advantage, but you can’t beat the Mag Mile when it comes to holiday shopping. Yes there tends to be more than a few tourists, but it adds to the holiday merriment. Michigan Avenue has something for everyone — from GAP to Gucci you’ll find stores in your price range and presents for the whole family. Add the numerous public transportation options and you’ve got shopping gold, even on a budget.
2.    Union Square, San Francisco: From high-end window shopping on Chestnut St. to everyday shopping in Union Square, San Francisco has something for everyone. Head through the Dragon Gates of one of the original Chinatowns for everything from inexpensive souvenirs to higher end wares including jewelry and furs.
3.    Sawgrass Mills, Fort Lauderdale: I consider myself somewhat of an expert shopper, having been from outlet to boutique and back again. Sawgrass Mills Outlet is by far the best outlet mall I have ever laid eyes upon. It’s a 30-minute drive from downtown Fort Lauderdale but well worth it. (*Tip: consider renting a car for the day. A cab could run upwards of $70 both ways, so the rental car will pay for itself). You will find every store imaginable, so leave the faint of heart at the hotel, and plan to spend an entire day here.
4.    5th Avenue Manhattan, New York:  Definitely a shopping mecca, Manhattan has a rich history with many iconic stores. Visit Tiffany’s flagship store at 5th and 57th or the first Saks 5th Avenue at 5th and 50th. Head across the street to American Girl Place and pick up something for that favorite niece.
5.    Nassau/Paradise Island: Label lovers will delight in the many brand name boutiques Nassau has to offer. Jewelry, perfume, handbags and the lot are bountiful… and the best part is it’s all duty free! So hit up Gucci and Fendi on Bay Street and save while shopping (not an oxymoron). Plus you can have fun bargaining for cutesy souvenirs and t-shirts at the Straw market.

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When Erin Kregor is not at Orbitz, she can be found working over the racks at Neiman Marcus.

Tagged: Caribbean Vacation, Chicago Vacation, Florida Vacation, New York Vacation

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Business_travel
By Joe Brancatelli

Delta Keeps Expanding Its Overseas Presence: Since its 2005 bankruptcy, Delta Air Lines has slashed its domestic network and remade itself as an international carrier. And the new routes keep coming. Next June, it plans to launch nonstop flights to Paris from two new cities: Raleigh and Pittsburgh. The five weekly Raleigh flights start on June 2; the five weekly Pittsburgh flights begin the next day. Also next June, Delta will launch a new route to Africa: Atlanta-Cape Verde Islands-Monrovia, Liberia. Flights will operate weekly. … US Airways will bulk up its international network in May. From its hub in Philadelphia, it will add seasonal flights to Oslo and Birmingham, England. … Thai Airways has changed its mind again and will keep operating its Los Angeles-Bangkok nonstop flights. The service was due to end on October 31, but now will survive at least through January 31. … JetBlue Airways is branching out in the Caribbean. On December 18, it launches daily flights between Fort Lauderdale and San Juan. On February 1, it will add two daily flights from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau, Bahamas, and a daily flight from Orlando to Nassau. And beginning February 14, it will begin Saturday-only service between Boston and St. Maarten.

AIRPORT REPORT

Little Changes Mean a Lot: Continental Airlines and US Airways are trimming the size of allowable carry-on bags to 45 linear inches. Most U.S. carriers are already at 45 inches for carry-ons. … Global Entry, the Customs and Immigration Service’s trusted-travel program, had expanded to four more airports: Atlanta, Chicago/O’Hare, Los Angeles and Miami. The program launched earlier this year at New York/Kennedy, Washington/Dulles and Houston/Intercontinental. It permits returning U.S. travelers to skip passport-control lines. … Travelers who carry a Chase credit or debit card tied to the Continental OnePass program are now permitted to check one bag for free and are not charged the airline’s $15 first-bag fee.… Delta Air Lines, which merged with Northwest Airlines last month, has lined up the two carriers’ checked-luggage fees: $15 for the first bag, $25 for the second.

HOTEL HOT SHEET

Economy Be Damned: Another Burst of New Hotels Opens: If you thought the rocky economy would slow down the pace of new hotel openings, forget it. There are so many new properties in the pipeline that they just keep gushing forth. So get out your scorecard for these new outposts of your favorite brands. … In Boston, there’s a new 72-room Holiday Inn Express on Friend Street, across from the TD Banknorth Garden where the Celtics and Bruins play. … Sheraton has opened a 161-room property in the posh Chicago suburb of Northbrook, just 14 miles from O’Hare Airport. … Marriott has opened a 106-room TownePlace property in downtown Albany, the capital of New York State. … A former newspaper building has been converted to an 81-suite Candlewood Suites hotel in Terre Haute, Indiana. … W Hotels has opened its first hotel in Hong Kong. The 393-room property in Kowloon has a spa, fitness center, swimming pool and two restaurants. … Two new limited-service hotels opened in the Soho District of New York this week: The 150-room Four Points on Charlton Street and the 160-room Hampton Inn on Watts Street. … The former Radisson in Hampton, Virginia, has become a Crowne Plaza after a $4 million renovation. … Shangri-La has opened a 548-room hotel in Futian, in the Shenzhen province of China. … And there has been plenty of new action in the luxury sector, too. In the last few days, Four Seasons opened a 147-room property in Seattle; the Philippe Starck-designed SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills opened as part of the Starwood Luxury Collection; St. Regis opened a 120-room resort in Punta Mita, Mexico; and Inter-Continental turned the key on the 257-room Montelucia Resort, a swanky 34-acre spread in the Paradise Valley area of Scottsdale, Arizona.

ROUTE MAP

Southwest Introduces Something New in Minneapolis: Southwest Airlines, which already said that it would enter the Minneapolis market, has now launched something new to Northwest’s fortress hub: low fares. Southwest said this week that it would begin eight daily roundtrips between Minneapolis and Chicago/Midway on March 8 and the one-way fare is $69. That’s the 21-day advance-purchase price, of course, but consider that Northwest’s (and American’s and United’s) lowest one-way fare on the Minneapolis-Chicago/O’Hare route had been $426. The carriers’ cheapest fare before Southwest arrived was $376 roundtrip. Northwest isn’t sitting idly by, however. It is adding a few flights to its MSP-Chicago/O’Hare route. Northwest will operate about 20 flights a day in the market by February.

MILES & POINTS

More Cuts (and Upgrades) in the Major Frequent Travel Plans: Marriott Rewards couldn’t wait to tell folks that it was eliminating blackout dates on its hotel awards beginning on January 15. And Marriott was excited as all get out to say that the bonuses for Platinum Elite members would rise to 50 percent from the current 30 percent. But what it didn’t announce, much to the annoyance of sharp-eyed members, was that capacity controls on awards will remain, essentially negating the benefit of having no blackout dates. Also, the program added an eighth, and much more expensive, tier of hotels. The eighth tier includes more than a dozen of the most desired properties in major cities around the world. And the price of a popular choice of very frequent Marriott Rewards members, the 7-night-stay award, was raised. … And some good news: American has quietly dropped the $5fee for claiming an AAdvantage frequent flier award. And Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines have eliminated fuel surcharge on award tickets. … On the other hand, United Airlines has increased the cost of some of its awards by as much as 40 percent. It has also switched its policy on upgrade awards: International tickets purchased at any fare can are now eligible for mileage upgrades. But the upgrades come with stiff cash co-pays of as much as $500.

NEED TO KNOW

On-the-Road Intelligence to Help You Travel Smarter: Remember all that crowing US Airways did earlier this year after it padded its schedule and shot to top of the on-time ratings? You are now cordially invited to forget it. The airline slipped to tenth among the 19 carriers in the Transportation Department’s on-time ratings for September. Also tumbling down the chart after a few months of improved operations: United Airlines, which finished 17th. Overall, the government says 84.88 percent of all flights arrived on-time (which is defined as within 15 minute of schedule). … United Airlines now wants to sell you luggage-shipping service. The airline’s new Door to Door service promises overnight delivery of luggage for prices that start at $149 a bag. But United isn’t stupid: The luggage will be shipped by FedEx, not United. … Detroit’s Book Cadillac, the hotel that once feted the kings of the car industry, has finally reopened. After a two-year, $200 million restoration, the hotel is now known as the Westin Book Cadillac. It originally opened in 1924, was one of Motown’s most notable hotels through the 1960s, fell into disrepair as Detroit cratered in the 1970s and tumbled into bankruptcy and closed in 1984. It stood empty, a blight in the heart of downtown Detroit, until reopening with a gala bash for charity last week.

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Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of JoeSentMe.com, a non-commercial Web site for business travelers. Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. Licensed by contract for Orbitz use.

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