Florida tourism embraces same-sex wedding boom

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Excerpt from Tampa Bay Times

When the Empire State legalized same-sex marriage on July 24, 2011, New York City alone generated some $259 million in spending related to gay weddings in the first year.

Florida tourism insiders and bay area merchants are expecting — and, in some cases, already feeling — the same buzz and burst of business. According to a study promoted by political advocacy group Equality Florida, $117 million could be spent statewide in the first year alone, solely based on LGBT Floridians getting married in Florida — never mind the influx of out-of-towners ready to exchange vows.

That same study also said “up to 2,626 jobs would be created” just to get up with the demand.

Optimism? You bet, although the full economic impact won’t be known for a while.

Visit Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County’s nonprofit tourism branch, just launched a series of national print and digital ads aimed directly at same-sex couples tying the knot: “To Have to Hold,” which gives the gay community yet another reason to sample our sandy shores.

“We’ve done our homework,” said Santiago Corrada, Visit Tampa Bay’s president and CEO. “We know the spending power that exists in the LGBT community. They like to travel; they like unique experiences.”

For all the excitement, however, there’s also a bemused back-patting reminder that Florida, and especially Tampa Bay, has been a gay-friendly vacation destination for a long time. Yes, the fact you can now get your paperwork done here is huge. But let’s not forget: We’re good at this.

The St. Pete Pride shindig, this year scheduled for the last weekend in June, is one of the biggest LGBT celebrations on the East Coast. Ybor City’s Pride Parade & Festival, which Tampa will celebrate on March 28, is expected to draw mondo numbers, as well.

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