A new visitors’ bureau that aims to attract gay tourists to Orlando is getting things started with a bid to attract one of the world’s largest amateur athletic events, the Gay Games.
Converge Orlando Inc. is poised to announce its bid for the 2018 Gay Games at a news conference this afternoon. The international sporting expo, which, like the Olympics, is held every four years, draws thousands of athletes from dozens of countries.
“We’ve estimated over 200,000 attendees over a seven- to 10-day period,” said Mikael Audebert, executive director Converge Orlando, which will market itself as Orlando Gay Travel. “We are going to work with the entire region to make this happen.”
The Gay Games have not historically drawn a crowd of that magnitude; it generally draws 10,000 to 12,000 athletes and participants. But Orlando organizers hope they can attract a significant number of spectators by holding the games in October, a month that includes key local events, such as Epcot’s Food Wine Festival; Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights; and Orlando’s Come Out with Pride week, which Audebert helps organize.
“It’s about building an event that people feel they are coming to for a reason,” Audebert said.
Orlando is already known in travel circles for hosting Gay Days, an annual series of events whose organizer estimates combined attendance of more than a hundred thousand people. That weeklong celebration in early June culminates in a visit to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
Gay-travel experts, including Audebert, say Orlando could do a better job of tapping the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender market throughout the year, not just for Gay Days.
“I think the LGBT community tends to feel that Gay Days is the only gay-friendly event that is happening in Orlando,” Audebert said.
Orlando Gay Travel, which began pursuing LGBT conventions and events about six months ago, hopes to change that perception. The non-profit group wants to attract events such as OutServe, a group for LGBT military personnel that recently chose the Shades of Green resort at Walt Disney World as the home of its leadership conference in October.
For Gay Games, Orlando will be one of 15 cities worldwide competing for the event. The bid is a partnership between several local organizations, including the Central Florida Sports Commission and Visit Orlando.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said Tuesday he is “extremely supportive” of the bid. “Orlando has created a reputation for fairness, equality, diversity and tolerance, and would be a perfect locale to host this,” he said.
The official host of the games won’t be announced until 2014, when the next Gay Games takes place in Cleveland.
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