For years Los Angeles has been a pariah to the national LGBT community because California passed a law banning same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, in 2008.
In 2013, however, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal that sought to have the proposition upheld, and government-recognized same-sex nuptials returned en masse.
You can't blame organizers for avoiding a state that appeared to be hostile. But it looks as if LGBT conventions, a sought-after segment of the tourism market, are starting to return to Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board recently gloated about the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, which will host its annual global convention in L.A. for the first time in its 32-year history.
All the magic happens Wednesday through Saturday. This is major.
"With the addition of the repeal of Proposition 8, [we] moved full steam ahead at marketing Los Angeles as one of the most LGBT-friendly destinations in the world," a convention board spokesman told us.
Even though the Gay & Lesbian Travel Association's get-together is small (about 500 are expected), it hosts the LGBT convention about LGBT tourism and conventions, so it's influential. The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board calls it "the leading global organization dedicated to LGBT tourism."
The association says this about L.A:
L.A.’s sophisticated lifestyle, vibrant cultural scene and creative industries help make it the home to one of the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in the world. LGBT individuals are active and everywhere in Los Angeles, from trendy West Hollywood, Silver Lake and Los Feliz to the beach cities and the San Fernando Valley. West Hollywood (aka “WeHo”) boasts Southern California’s largest LGBT community, and is the site of the annual Gay Pride parade and the Halloween Costume Carnaval. The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in 2013 paved the way to restore marriage equality in California, and Los Angeles is the perfect city to host an unforgettable wedding.
On Thursday, Mayor Eric Garcetti is scheduled to give opening remarks at the confab.
Los Angeles has had more issues than Proposition 8 when it comes to attracting tourists, though. This is a good start.
The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board has long argued that we need more hotel rooms. As it stands, the limited supply, paired with the high cost of living in L.A., can push room rates out of reach for many conventions.
But Michael McDowell, vice president of cultural tourism for the L.A. board, says LGBT tourists spend about four times as much as other visitors, so they're valued customers.
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"It's a small audience, but it's a very desirable audience," he said.
LGBT tourists represent about 3.2 million visitors of about 43 million tourists who visit Los Angeles each year, McDowell said. The convention board lobbied actively, using new funding for its Tourism Marketing District initiative, to get this crowd to return.
"In the happy period after Proposition 8 was dispatched, we wanted to let the world know that we welcome gay and lesbian visitors to Los Angeles," McDowell said. "We're hoping they have a great time and come back."