By Henry Magenheim and Mark Chesnut
MIAMI -- The local chapter of Act Up, an international AIDS
activist organization, called for a gay and lesbian tourism boycott
of Florida in response to budget cuts in the state's AIDS- and
But the effect of the move is problematic.
So far, no other organizations have expressed public support for
The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), a
network of travel professionals based in Fort Lauderdale, believes
a boycott of the state "would be counter-productive and
unrealistic," according to its executive director, Robert
"Gay-friendly suppliers are not in business to create
controversy," he said.
He identified Greater Miami, Greater Fort Lauderdale, Key West,
Orlando and Tampa as areas with numerous gay-friendly suppliers
that would be hurt if a boycott took hold.
Eric Sawyer, a spokesman for Act Up/New York, said he expected
his group to support the boycott, but said the New York City
chapter would make a statement on Aug. 5.
Regarding concerns about gay businesses suffering from a
boycott, Sawyer said, "Act Up/New York is all about protecting the
needs of people with AIDS and not gay business owners, so if that's
an unfortunate consequence, that's an unfortunate consequence."
At the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Bill
Anderson, director of marketing research, said the economic impact
of gay travel spending is significant, noting that gay travelers
have much disposable income and spend it freely.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau,
according to a spokeswoman, "never favors" linking a travel boycott
Bureau officials reported 670,000 gay travelers stayed in
Broward County during 2001, spending about $600 million.
"There are other ways to make a point, without alienating so
many people," said Steve Smith, gay tourism marketing manager for
the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
Empathy but no action from industry
MIAMI -- "I have mixed feelings about [the call for a boycott],"
said Tom Roth, president of the Travel Alternatives Group (TAG), an
agency consortium that focuses on the gay and lesbian market.
"But, generally, I would not recommend to our TAG member travel
agents that they support a boycott of Florida [because], although
it may send a signal to the government officials of Florida about
the power of the gay [market], the real downside is that there is a
tremendous gay infrastructure in Florida that would be hurt more
than anything else, and I don't believe that that is the intention
of a boycott."
The Act Up boycott has been "getting some local press,"
according to Paul Kowalewski, vice president and general manager of
All Horizons Rancho Travel in Los Altos, Calif. But he was unsure
what effect it would have.
"In principle, boycotts are a good thing," he said. "I support
them. My guess is [Florida's state government] would react faster
to economic news than to political pressure. But it depends on the
number of people participating; one is never sure who will
Lucy Hirleman, of Berkshire Travel in Newfoundland, N.J.,
predicted the effect of the boycott would be "nothing."
"Here's the mindset of people: If you want to go somewhere and
it's in your budget and it has what you need, most times ... people
do what they want to do."
Still, Hirleman said that "if I know a client is politically
active, I might bring it up just so he can't say later I didn't let
She also said gay-friendly and gay-owned businesses would be
hurt by a boycott. "There are an awful lot of gay-owned businesses
down there. Their livelihood is at stake. ... Are you going to put
all of these people out of business?"