The biggest names in the hotel business are now courting our community.
Marriott International, Trump Entertainment Resorts, Harrah’s Entertainment and Starwood Hotels and Resorts are now competing with gay-owned and -operated hotels and guesthouses for our business. The question is, how do you make sure your travel dollars are reinvested in our community?
The answer is you have to “buy gay” by booking your hotel stay at a designated Web site or by using a special “gay” code. By outing yourself as an LGBT traveler, you can take advantage of special offers and discounts. In return, the companies, in varying degrees, support our community’s events and organizations. While there are hotel chains with a long history of support for our community, notably Kimpton Hotels, here are some of the newcomers:
Earlier this year, Marriott International launched its first gay and lesbian Web site, www.marriottgaytravel.com. You can book almost any room on offer here. There are just a few gay-specific packages, including the “Out In New York” or “Out in DC” hotel deals. Both packages include a slew of extras, including breakfast for two and 5 percent of your room rate being donated to Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Be sure to enter “VIQ” in the corporate/promotional code box. Marriott received a 100 percent on Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index and supports LGBT organizations including PFLAG. Bravo, Marriott.
Some Starwood brands have built a solid reputation for support of the local LGBT community. Check out www.starwoodpromos.com/pride07, as this Web site promises “exclusive pride rates.” Starwood has two incredible new properties in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: the W Hotel and the Westin Beach Resort. Both have perfect locations right on the beach, and the Westin is also within walking distance of the gay beach at Sebastian Street. The Westin is your best bet, with ocean views in a gorgeously renovated hotel that is often hundreds of dollars less per night than the close-by Ritz-Carlton Ft. Lauderdale. The Westin is also very active in its local LGBT community, so when you stay there, you’re giving back.
Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort
Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J., should get a gold star when it comes to wooing our community online. Instead of creating a separate LGBT micro-site, this iconic brand proudly displays its pride with the symbolic rainbow on the homepage at www.trumptaj.com right next to icons for Facebook and YouTube. Recently, the hotel created the “Fun and ‘Gay’mes Weekend,” filled with two days of entertainment including Red Ribbon Gay Bingo, which raises money for our community. The hotel promoted the LGBT weekend with prominent signage throughout the facility. Go Trump! (Splurge for a stunning Chairman Tower suite: They are modern, without any campy décor.)
Gay-owned and -operated hotels
When choosing where to rest your head, don’t forget to support gay-owned and -operated hoteliers, who have always supported our community. More often than not, your dollars will be reinvested in our community. In Ft. Lauderdale, the five-star Royal Palms Guesthouse is celebrating the return of Richard Gray, the original proprietor and gay-travel pioneer, with a 50-percent discount on all deluxe queen rooms through Oct. 1 (www.royalpalms.com). And don’t forget The Alexander Inn (alexanderinn.com) in Philadelphia, the many gay-owned guesthouses in New Hope and Asbury Park’s Empress Hotel.
Jeff Guaracino is a vice president for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation and author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing.” He finds the best deals and travel resources out there for the community. For local travel, check out visitphilly.com.