Boutique and Luxury Gay Hotels for the LGBT Traveler

Since the late 70’s
small B&Bs and Inns
and a handful of resorts
 from Key West to Palm Springs
have labeled  themselves
as “gay hotels” and/or
“gay resorts.”

In the 90’s we saw  many big name hotels courting the gay travel dollar labeling themselves “gay-friendly” and providing gay perks to gay travelers. From W to Wynn, Marriott to Kimpton, major hotel chains have been targeting lesbian and gay travelers for some time now.


Some estimate that the LGBT travel market is worth an annual $63 billion in the U.S. alone. “There have always been gay inns and B&Bs,” says Lords founder Brian Gorman. “This is the time to take this concept to a far larger scale.”


When the Lords South Beach Hotel opened last month in Miami, its brightly hued decor, trio of plunge pools and Absolut Vodka–partnered bar looked much like any other higher-end Miami resort. But the 50+ room Art Deco confection, which is located a block from South Beach’s main gay beach, is billing itself as the country’s first large-scale, design-driven gay hotel. Not just gay-friendly, but gay through and through. The hotel worked with Out magazine to develop a Concierge App listing top local LGBT hot spots, asked Levi’s to custom-design its gray and white jean uniforms, and is preparing to launch its own social network.



 


Although the Lords may be the first, it’s not the only LGBT-focused hotel brand opening its doors in the U.S. In January, Fort Lauderdale’s Royal Palms will reopen after expanding from a 12-room gay-friendly guesthouse to a 62-room boutique hotel that caters to an all-male clientele who prefer a clothing-optional environment. With a spa, café, bar and gym, Florida’s Royal Palms Resort and Spa is marketing itself as North America’s biggest “full-service” gay retreat, but it won’t retain that title for long.

Later in 2011, Manhattan will  finally usher in the Out NYC, a massive, 90,000-sq.-ft. (8,400 sq m) “urban resort” close to Times Square.  This has been in the news for over a year now and quite an exciting project.


The industry trailblazer is Axel Hotels, a Spanish hospitality group with stylish, midrange LGBT-focused properties in Barcelona, Berlin and Buenos Aires. The chain is cheekily billed as “hetero-friendly,” says Axel president Juan Julia, who notes that in the off-season, upward of 30% of the guests at its properties are straight. The five-year-old company is considering additional sites in London and Paris, but first it must tackle New York City — where an estimated 7 million LGBT tourists pump $16.4 billion into the city each year. Axel will manage the 127-room hotel for the Out NYC, whose other components include an 11,000-sq.-ft. (1,000 sq m) disco, upscale restaurant and men’s spa.



Calling itself a luxury lifestyle resort collection, G Worldwide intends to launch properties in New York, Florida, California, and Las Vegas, according to its website. The hotels are described as being “uber high-tech facilities” operated by “some of the most innovative, creative people in design, food & beverage, nightlife, events, and hospitality.

Is there enough money and travelers to go around?
 
It appears so. Look at all the gay cruises. While many LGBT travelers do not wish to  “ghettoize” themselves by staying in gay-only establishments,  gay cruises have proved that  there is a certain kind of gay consumer who wants to travel among a like-minded crowd. I for one, would much rather stay in an all gay hotel, than a mixed hotel where straights may roll their eyes at me as I walk by in my pink kaftan!

“These places provide a concentrated feeling of community,” said Thomas Roth, president of Community Marketing, a company in San Francisco that specializes in gay and lesbian market research. “Especially for the many people who don’t otherwise have the opportunity to be the majority.”

At a time when acceptance of gay people seems to be increasing, such resorts might seem superfluous. But Mr. Roth said his company’s research indicated a strong interest in them.

“We can’t assume there is a ‘gay customer’ anymore,” he said. There is a lot of diversity among people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, he said, and “some want all gay all the time — especially if they’re from, say, Omaha. So something like the Out NYC could be extremely successful.”