The good state of Florida wants gay people to know something: You sure as hell can't adopt here, but we've been counting on your child-free-in-a-recession vacation dollars. (Expensive SoFla hotel? Check. Poolside margarita? Check. Civil rights? Umm, about that...)
Along with insanely wealthy folks, gay people are up there with the biggest travel spenders. In the U.S., gay people dish out about $70 billion per year -- or 5 percent of the nation's total money spent on tourism. But for as hard as South Florida cities such as Miami Beach, Key West, and Fort Lauderdale have worked to carve out a rainbow-flag-waving, boys-kissing-boys niche, our state's political nastiness -- combined with a weak economy -- amounts to a big "Keep Away" sign. Gay travel is down drastically here this season, by about 25 percent according to Broward hoteliers interviewed by the Sun Sentinel.
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So it's a good thing -- and kind of surprising -- the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association announced a couple of days ago they will hold a big travel convention in Fort Lauderdale in 2011. Says the city's vice mayor, Ken Keechl: "Our county, with vibrant 'gayborhoods,' has been a top-rated destination within the gay and lesbian community for more than a decade."
Just, you know, don't tell them about Amendment 2.