Next week, I and Instinct will be attending a one of a kind conference in Tampa, Florida. Living in Florida for the past 10 years, I have grown to love what it has to offer our LGBTQ+ Community. I’ve also been able to meet many of the individuals that work for and truly now are fighting for LGBTQ+ inclusion, opportunities, and visibility when it comes to the communities across Florida.
Here is more about the conference followed by my own opinions of the current state of Florida and LGBTQ+ Tourism.
Florida’s First LGBTQ+ Tourism Conference, to be Held August 1-3 in Tampa
A long lineup of notables, including the Tampa and Key West Mayors, heads of major Florida destinations and LGBTQ+ thought leaders are set to take center stage at the Florida OutCoast Convention (FLOCC) hosted by OutCoast
Next week, from August 1-3, the Hilton Tampa Downtown will host a gathering of statewide and international tourism leaders for the Florida OutCoast Convention (FLOCC), a conference that aims to unite LGBTQ+ inclusive destinations, hotels, businesses, nonprofits, pride organizations, and travel influencers of the sunshine state.
FLOCC comes at a crucial time in the state’s history, as political debates over LGBTQ+ rights and travel advisories have infused the national conversation in recent months. This three-day event will be held August 1-3, 2023 and opens with an evening reception on July 31st at Yeoman’s Topgolf Swing Suite.
FLOCC is being hosted by OutCoast.com, an online state-focused LGBTQ+ editorial and video travel blog that highlights Florida’s inclusive destinations and businesses.
“For the first time, we have a dedicated conference for Florida’s tourism and LGBTQ leaders to unite, evolve and flourish as one community. The conference format is designed to provide stakeholders a comfortable space to ‘FLOCC together’ to create, deliver and sustain ideas and solutions to strengthen the Florida tourism industry.” – Rachel Covello, publisher of OutCoast.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, the first woman and openly gay person to serve as Tampa Police Chief, kicks off the conference, followed by sessions on navigating tourism advisories, understanding the impact of diversity in tourism, recruiting hospitality employees with inclusion in mind, working with LGBTQ+ influencers, marketing to LGBTQ+ travelers, and much more.
Day One panelists and speakers include Visit Lauderdale CEO Stacy Ritter, Key West Mayor Teri Johnston, and Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada, along with representatives from the American Hospitality & Lodging Association (AHLA) Foundation, the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association (LGBT MPA), to name a few.
On the Second Day, LGBTQ+ market segment leaders for Visit Lauderdale, Greater Miami CVB, Key West & the Florida Keys, and Paradise Coast weigh in on the impact of their roles at the destination marketing level. Later breakouts look at trends in LGBTQ+ travel planning, strategies for developing an inclusive brand story, and discussions around LGBTQ+ bars, venues, entertainment, and events as they relate to Florida tourism.
FLOCC has spared no effort in drawing top notch entertainment throughout the event, whether it’s Sarah Potenza and Jay Miah, from America’s Got Talent and Alter Ego, keynote speaker Kevin Finke, the guru behind BELONGING JOURNEY™ and workplace inclusivity, LGBTQ+ comedian Jeff Klein, or local pianist Nathan Daugherty.
The conference will also feature FLAMBOYANCE, an afternoon award and cocktail reception recognizing LGBTQ+ tourism and leadership accomplishments throughout Florida. Registration and sponsorship offerings can be found at flocc.lgbt/.
Florida is historically known as one of the world’s premier LGBTQ travel destinations, beckoning with year-round warmth, top-notch dining and clubs, inclusive events and festivals, and friendly accommodations. According to market research, approximately 4 million LGBTQ tourists visit Florida each year, representing more than $3 billion in annual revenue. According to Reports and Insights, the total value of the global LGBT tourism market is slated to reach US$ 568.5 Bn by 2030.
“As the weather heats up, so is our destination as we look forward to continuing to welcome all travelers in search of adventure in the heart of Florida’s Gulf Coast. We are excited to host the first ever FLOCC conference and highlight some of our world-class partners and attractions.” – Santiago C. Corrada, President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.
The Hilton Tampa Downtown, FLOCC host hotel, is an ideal setting for the convention, having long been inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ+ travelers (and employees). While the FLOCC room block rate is no longer available, rooms are still available at competitive rates.
My Two Thoughts About Florida LGBTQ+ Tourism
As the Managing Editor of Instinct, I’ve seen the ups and downs of the LGBTQ+ Community in Florida over the past 10 years. Most recent, we are dealing with the policies Ron DeSantis continues to volley at us and are continued to be shot down by the court system.
Many have called for the boycott of Florida over the governor’s hate laws. To that point, I have many thoughts, but for this post, I will share the following three things.
1 – If you boycott an environment that is very LGBTQ+ accepting, loving, and has many positives and options for our community, do you expect that environment to survive? Are you going to wait until DeSantis is out of office and then come back and expect everything to be the same as you left it? The lively LGBTQ+ Florida you have visited over the years, Key West, Wilton Manors/Fort Lauderdale, St Pete, etc., may look quite different upon your return, if those options survive. When we ask in four years, where did the gay businesses go in Florida, Tennessee, and other states facing these hate laws, boycotts will be one of the reasons.
2 – You didn’t have a problem coming to Southern Florida during COVID for spring break, circuit parties, or on your way back and forth from Puerto Vallarta for New Years and other vacations. It’s good to see your morals are in high gear now when a pandemic is not involved and your breath doesn’t kill anymore. You’re able to point the finger at little ronnie, someone else’s bad behavior, and not your own. Sorry, I lost friends and neighbors to COVID because of those selective morals of yours. Now I may get to see your morals kill LGBTQ+ businesses, too.
3 – Your same boycott logic should have been applied to New York City and Stonewall, right? If we reacted with bans and boycotts every time we as a community faced adversity, Stonewall would have been lessened to just another event on our LGBTQ+ timeline just like all the other Queer protests before it in history and there were many. Stonewall became the pinnacle moment in our Queer history because of one group in particular swayed one way and not the other. We celebrate Stonewall more than other historic protests today because at its November 1969 meeting in Philadelphia, the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) didn’t vote to boycott New York City, which was on the table as an option, but instead voted for a march to be held in New York City the following year to commemorate the ”spontaneous demonstrations on Christopher Street.” As a result of the measure, the first Christopher Street Liberation Day demonstrations took place in June 1970, with coordinated events in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Imagine, if instead, ERCHO had voted the other way to designate New York City as a lost cause and to not go back the following year and to boycott the unsafe and rotten Big Apple.
Visibility changes the attitudes of society. Visibility changes the attitudes of society. One more time. Visibility changes the attitudes of society.
I am looking forward to seeing those at FLOCC in Tampa next week. I am looking forward to meeting those others that understand visibility changes the attitudes of society and not being visible allows for other attitudes to foster and grow.
FLOCC is Sponsored by the Following Companies
Presenting: Visit Tampa Bay
Platinum: Naples, Marco Island, Everglades (Paradise Coast)
Gold: Visit St Pete Clearwater, Visit Lauderdale, Orange 142
Silver: Cregan&Co, OutClique, Watermark, AHLA Foundation
Bronze: Greater Miami CVB, Simple Weddings, DASH Creative, Greenspoon Marder, Pink Media, Tampa LGBT Chamber, Key West & The Florida Keys, Parkway Motel & Marina, Havanna Café, The Palm Beaches
OutCoast.com and OutCoastTV are the go-to digital resource for Florida’s LGBTQ visitors, celebrants and residents traveling to and living in Florida. In addition, we provide the complete advertising solution for companies interested in marketing their services and product offerings to Florida’s LGBTQ+ visitors, celebrants and residents. To learn more, click here.
OutCoast Consulting works on a strategic level with companies in a variety of ways. We speak at events on diversity and inclusion, work with corporations to roll out LGBTQ Employee Resource Groups, assist fellow bloggers on content development and SEO strategies, and offer guidance to DMOs and travel partners on best LGBTQ marketing practices.
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