Portland one of America’s ‘best cities for gay travel,’ eyes $70B market

Travel + Leisure magazine is no stranger to Portland, or vice versa. Over the past few years, the publication has lauded Maine’s largest city as being one of America’s “greenest,” having one of America’s best farmers’ markets, having one of America’s best brunch spots, and less flatteringly, having some of America’s worst dressed people.

This month, Portland is back on the positive side of things, getting a ranking among the nation’s top 20 “cities for gay travel.” The city places No. 15 on the list, just behind No. 14 Los Angeles and just ahead of No. 16 Boston.

The top rated gay travel destination is San Francisco, according to Travel + Leisure.

Here’s why the magazine thinks it’s important for cities to be gay friendly, beyond whatever political or moral reasons city leaders might have:

According to marketing firm CMI, LGBT travelers now account for about $70 billion in the U.S. travel industry. “When the economy slowed down, travel companies realized they needed to diversify their customer base, and they saw an opportunity: gay couples with double incomes,” says Jason Couvillion, partner at agency Alternative Luxury Travel.

Being a gay-friendly destination these days means more than having a selection of bars or a gayborhood: “It needs to be more than just putting up a rainbow flag,” says John Clifford, president of agency International Travel Management. “It’s about sensitivity and savvy.”

Travel + Leisure gives Portland plaudits for opening City Hall at midnight on Dec. 29, the first day same-sex marriages became legal in Maine, to accommodate gay and lesbian couples hoping to take the plunge.

But beyond that, the publication writes that Portland is a gay travel hotspot because of its largely safe streets and “mellow” vibe. The magazine goes on:

Instead of a raging party scene, the allure here is the idyllic summers, great for strolling the Old Port and sipping the highly ranked microbrews.

So, basically, Portland is a great city for gay and lesbian tourists to visit for all the same reasons Portland might be a great city for straight tourists to visit.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.