More importantly to some, no city staff members or commissioners will be traveling with city supported funds, according to Miami Beach Public Information Officer Nannette Rodriguez.
“The funds used for this initiative are marketing dollars that come from resort tax,” Rodriguez advised SunPost. “We set some aside this year from Super Bowl to compliment the GLBT Committee’s efforts.”
In a June 2 memo from City Manager Jorge Gonzalez to Mayor Matti Bower and commissioners, the manager invited officials to come – but informed them that they would have to do so at their own expense.
“I figured it was just a setup for another taxpayer funded vacation for the important people who might be looking to get out of town in the dead of summer,” said resident Bruce Layne.
Apparently not. Participation in New York City’s massive Pride showcase, which is expected to attract around 1.5 million people, is part of Miami Beach’s “Proud 25/7” marketing initiative. Miami Beach’s sponsorship of the New York event means the city gains use of a booth to market the city, will field a street team, receives ad and logo placement, verbal recognition, widespread print recognition as a sponsor and the opportunity to market the brand that is Miami Beach.
Elaine Lancaster, one of the region’s most recognized drag divas will lead the contingent and the street team. Commissioner Michael Gongora is also attending.
“We need a well thought out effort not just a shot here and there.” – South Beach Hotel and Restaurant Association President David Kelsey
“I am looking forward to it,” Gongora said. Although he said that he is thrilled to be going, the city’s sponsorship was somewhat of a surprise.
“That’s the funny thing – the commission never decided on the whole sponsorship thing,” he said. “It must have been an administrative decision.”
Gongora said that anytime Miami Beach is behind any GLBT event, he is happy to help. Gongora was Miami Beach’s first openly gay elected commissioner.
Commissioner Jerry Libbin is also allegedly attending the event, but he could not be reached for confirmation by deadline. Gongora said he did not know who all would be going on the trip.
Supporters hope that the exposure in New York will help develop tourism for Miami Beach.
“I hear that there is a perception that we’re not as welcoming as a destination for gay tourists as we used to be,” Gongora said. “That’s something that we need to work on. New York is the city we draw the most tourists from and we want to show people there that we are a welcoming city and that they should come and visit.”
David Kelsey, president of the South Beach Hotel & Restaurant Association said that while marketing was good, “it’s always too little, too late.
“We need focused attention on promoting South Beach and in particular to gay tourists,” Kelsey continued. “We used to be able to depend on gay tourism in the summer. Now we can’t.”
More than a decade before Miami Beach began to support gay tourism initiatives, Kelsey was a strong advocate for marketing to that community and for working to develop tourism in the summer – when most businesses suffer.
Miami Beach’s reputation among gay travelers has suffered, Kelsey said.
“We’re not even listed in the top 10 gay tourism destinations anymore,” Kelsey said.
By contrast, Fort Lauderdale, which began supporting efforts similar to those proposed by Kelsey several years ago, has become a massive gay tourist destination.
“We need a well thought out effort not just a shot here and there,” Kelsey said.
Still, Kelsey said that the visibility at New York Pride is better than nothing.
Bruce Layne said that he is flying to New York for observance of Pride.
“More than a million people there, it’s pretty crazy,” he said. “I will have to keep an eye out and see if I notice anything promoting Miami Beach.”