Popular wisdom holds there are two types of gay travelers: those who seek the segregated bliss of gay guesthouses and those who opt for the inclusiveness of brands like Kimpton and W.
Brian Gorman, founder of the soon-to-open Lords South Beach, is counting on another: a savvy, playful traveler attracted to a "by the community, for the community" experience. And he?s not alone. Early 2011 will also see the luxe Fort Lauderdale guesthouse Royal Palms quadruple in size, plus the opening of the xl Dance Bar, the first stage of the new Out NYC Urban Resort in Hell?s Kitchen, Manhattan, a five-story complex anchored by an Axel Hotel. In 2012, G Worldwide enters the fray in Wilton Manors, Fla., with an $80-million all-inclusive resort including a timeshare component. The gay hotel has arrived.
According to Community Marketing Inc.?s 14th annual gay tourism report, out of those surveyed, a third of whom visited N.Y.C. or Fort Lauderdale/Miami in the last year, 71% said they?d hit up a gay-friendly neighborhood restaurant, with around half saying the same about a gay bar or club. More than 80% ranked a hotel?s gay friendliness as a motivator. The takeaway: If you can combine all that into a full-service package—with the sweet spot of keeping pink dollars are pink—you?ve got dibs on the $63-billion domestic gay travel pie, one often gobbled up by major hotel chains, as they have more flexibility with room rates. According to Ian Reisner, developer of the Out NYC, the recession has also dropped real estate prices enough to make that company?s ambitions a reality.
CMI president Thomas Roth stresses the sense of community gay hotels would provide. It doesn?t matter if you?re from Bismarck, N.D. or Los Angeles, he says, just look at the success of gay cruises: "The community is enormous, diverse, and still relatively untapped." Richard Gray, founder of Royal Palms, agrees. He hopes to capture the younger (20?35) and more integrated gay market, which hasn?t had the same need for the all-gay experience as the gay market of the past. That?s why his redesigned hotels will be less about sex (i.e., the clothing-optional guesthouse) and more about the scene (with spa and café-bar). Gorman sees Lords taking up this torch too. Drawing on his luxury branding background and a custom CMI study that gave suggestions down to the type of sheets gays like (Frette, naturally), he has crafted Lords to become a new gay hub. A bonus: Select "rooms that matter" donate 10% to LGBT charities like the Point Foundation. Lords properties in Manhattan and WeHo are next. "It may not be for everyone," Gorman says, "but you?ll have to stay to find out."
Lords South Beach
The former Hotel Nash goes from deco to delirious with a yellow-striped St. Tropez makeover. Featuring 53 rooms, three plunge pools, the ?bonfire disco? restaurant Cha
Cha Rooster, and an Absolut-partnered bar, plus custom uniforms by Levis, Crunch gym passes, and a digital concierge by Out. One block from Twist and the 12th Street gay beach. Vacancy from November 21; LordsSouthBeach.com
G Resort, Wilton Manors, Fla.
Perched atop 700,000 square feet of lush, tropical grounds,
G Worldwide?s first outpost of luxury hotels boasts sleek
design (think lots of glass and aquatic elements) and
high-tech gadgetry?perfect for an urbane techie in need of
some R&R. There?s shopping and food nearby, but you
may want to remain on the premises and indulge in the
spa treatments and nightclub cocktails. Vacancy from 2012; GResorts.com
The Royal Palms Resort, Fort Lauderdale
Two neighboring properties conjoin the original guesthouse, now the Annex, for 62 rooms plus three pools, a new caf?, a bar, a spa, a gym, an ocean-view sundeck, and free onproperty iPads. Expect contemporary design, superb service, and an emphasis on tropical sensuality. Still
clothing-optional, all-male. Vacancy from January 2011; RoyalPalms.com
Out NYC Urban Resort
On far west 42nd St, an 127-room Axel Hotel with Richard Serra-inspired hallways and peek-a-boo pool anchors a Nickel spa, 24/7 caf?, restaurant by Eatery, Base retail, and 1,200-capacity club (opening this spring). Vacancy from 2012; ParkviewDevelopers.com