Sarah Feldberg
Sarah Feldberg

According to the 2016 LGBT Tourism & Hospitality report published by Community Marketing & Insights (CMI), Las Vegas was one of the top U.S. destinations for LGBT travelers last year.

The report, now in its 21st year, was published in December and pulled from surveys filled out by 3,723 respondents who self-identified as members of the LGBT community. The report covers the types of trips taken, reasons for travel, price point and hotel booking motivations. It also polled respondents on the destinations they visited in the previous year. 

New York took the top spot for both gay and bisexual men and lesbian and bisexual women, but Las Vegas ranked second among men, tied with Los Angeles and San Francisco, and was third among women, sharing the spot with Los Angeles and Chicago. On the overall "power rankings," Las Vegas took the fourth spot in the survey, behind New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"If you went back in their surveys, 15 years ago Vegas didn't even show up in their top 10 destinations," said Jim McMichael, specialty markets manager for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). "Now we consistently rank in the top five."

That change, McMichael said, isn't coincidental.

About 10 years ago, the LVCVA began to research potential markets to grow and develop. LGBT travelers became one of the organization's first focal points.

"We dedicated resources to start promoting Las Vegas as an LGBT destination," McMichael said, pointing to a partnership with CMI to research LGBT travel to Las Vegas, reach out to the promoters behind popular parties and festivals, work with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and dedicate an advertising strategy that markets Las Vegas in LGBT publications.

The result has seen Las Vegas climb the rankings of CMI's annual survey and a slew of LGBT-focused events filling out the city's calendar.

Already this year, Vegas has hosted the Sin City Shootout, an annual LGBT athletic tournament that includes 25 sports and draws more than 8,000 participants. Coming up is Viva WildSide's Sin City Soiree, a week of parties and events for the transgender community May 15 to 21 at Bally's; Matinee, a gay dance music festival returning to Las Vegas for the seventh time over Memorial Day weekend; Bigger Vegas, for "chubby gay men and their admirers," on July 4 to 10; the Convergence festival over Labor Day weekend; and Las Vegas Pride, which takes place months after most national pride events from Oct. 20 to 22.

Meanwhile, the popular Temptation Sundays LGBT pool party will return to the Luxor for its eight season starting May 14, and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is holding its International Business & Leadership Conference at Caesars Palace on Aug. 1 to 4.

"[The Chamber of Commerce has] had such success when they bring their program to Vegas," McMichael said. "They've committed to bringing the conference every three years."

However, LGBT travel to the Strip isn't just based around targeted events.  

"When we looked at the research of why is the LGBT population coming to Las Vegas, they're coming for the shows, the entertainment, the dining options, just the whole experience," said McMichael.

In other words, the same reasons anybody comes to Las Vegas. "When you have an LGBT overlay," he said, "it's a win-win."

Perhaps most importantly, Las Vegas has a reputation for embracing every kind of traveler, from high rollers and cowboys to gay couples and EDM fans.  

"Vegas is known for being a destination that welcomes everyone," McMichael said.

LGBT travelers seem to be hearing that message loud and clear.

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