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Sin City continues to welcome LGBT groups and their wallets

by Zamna Avila
Contributor
Thursday Mar 5, 2009
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As the recession continues to deepen, Las Vegas continues to struggle against a steady stream of home foreclosures, higher unemployment rates and a decline in tourists and other visitors who traditionally support the valley’s lucrative tourism industry. But national LGBT organizations continue to court potential donors in Sin City in spite of the economic downturn.

Two of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s board members are based in Las Vegas. The media watchdog also has a Leadership Council in the city that continues to work on ways it can enhance the organization’s profile.

"GLAAD is continuing our fundraising activities in Las Vegas," GLAAD spokesperson Richard Ferraro said.

The Human Rights Campaign hosted its third annual Las Vegas gala dinner at the Mandalay Bay Resort last September, but HRC spokesperson Trevor Thomas conceded the recession continues to present challenges.

"Like every advocacy or non-profit operating right now, fundraising is challenging whether it’s Las Vegas, Boston or Tampa," he said.

Mya Lake Reyes, director of diversity for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, told EDGE in a recent interview LGBT fundraising and travel in the valley has remained consistent-and in some cases continues to flourish. She said this trend is due, in part, because groups made their reservations up to three years ahead of their events.

"Unfortunately, the economy is sluggish but (LGBT groups) certainly are not going to cancel their bookings," she said.

"Unfortunately, the economy is sluggish but (LGBT groups) certainly are not going to cancel their bookings."

Southern Nevada’s economy remains highly dependent upon conventions. The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association is among the groups that traditionally hold gatherings in the city. And Reyes added LGBT event bookings were 11 percent higher last year than in 2007.

"I’m getting more request from LGBT associations that are looking at Las Vegas as a potential site than previous years," she said.

Reyes added she feels the city continues to recognize the LGBT travel industry’s continued impact on the local economy.

"We do a lot of advertising and outreach, of course, that helps position us positively in the LGBT market," Reyes said. "Our outreach to the gay and lesbian community speaks to the market and demonstrates to the rest of the market that we are a viable destination for LGBT meetings."

Statistics from the San Francisco-based Community Marketing, Inc., seem to support Reyes claims. A 2004 survey of LGBT travelers found Las Vegas was the second most popular American destination.

Community Marketing president Thomas Roth said a variety of entertainment options and its affordability are among the reasons Sin City remains an attractive place to visit.

"It’s one of the most affordable destinations. (LGBT travelers) like shopping and the variety of top-notch restaurant; and gambling is certainly an attraction," he said.

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