B&Bs and guesthouses that predominately serve the LGBT traveler have been around for decades. Now, it appears that full-service hotels catering to our community just may be gaining ground. Arguably, the famed Axel Hotels in Spain ans Argentina started the gay-focused trend, followed by Miami's Lords South Beach and in March The OUT NYC opens, billed as New York's first gay and straight friendly urban resort.
Native New Yorker Brian Gorman, 36, opened the Lords South Beach Hotel one year ago. South Beach's only hotel to cater almost exclusively to the LGBT community garnered rave reviews and even an item in the New York Times travel section. On the eve of the hotel's massive New Year's Eve celebration, I interviewed the young entrepreneur to find out why his hotel concept has been so successful.
Windy City Times: How is your hotel different than other South Beach hotels?
Brian Gorman: We are about creating a space where anyone who feels different feels comfortable. When you stay at our hotel it is like being at a friend's beach house. You feel like you are at home and you can be who you want to be. Our guests have responded very well.
WCT: Why do you need a gay hotel or as your tagline says an appropriately oriented hotel?
Brian Gorman: It doesn't always have to be about need; why can't it be about want? I am about creating product that supports the individual guest. I wanted to create a hotel for a community where I feel my strongest roots. If you took away my gay community, what community would I be a part of?
WCT: Guests can choose to stay in a room that gives back to the local Miami LGBT community.
Brian Gorman: We do a lot to bring the community together. One program I am very proud of us is called "Rooms That Matter." We have dedicated five rooms in the hotel and each local organization gets 10 percent of the revenue from those rooms. It is a great way to tie a for-profit with a not-for-profit. Among our charities are the Aqua Foundation and Miami Beach Pride. We have given $10,000 to the local community already.
WCT: Lords South Beach is turning one! What have you learned?
Brian Gorman: It's been a major learning curve. We have found who we are and what we are about. Our clientele is mixed. On average, we are 80 percent men and 20 percent women. On party weekends, we are almost 95 percent men. Our staff reflects our clientele. We have lesbians, gays, straights and transgender staff.
WCT: A recent search on your website found very affordable rates for South Beach in season. You have one penthouse for around $350 per night.
Brian Gorman: Before the recession, you couldn't go to the beach unless you wanted to pay $500 a night. To keep the creative spirits connected we try to keep our rates affordable and reasonable. We are trying to create a certain experience here by drawing a certain creative crowd. So most rooms are around $220 per night.
WCT: Any expansion plans?
Brian Gorman: Getting into New York is a possibility. There really is a market for gay hotels and for niche products that helps you stand out.
Jeff Guaracino is a vice president for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation ( GPTMC ) and the author of "Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing" and is Vice Chair for the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association ( IGLTA ) . He has learned to how to find the best deals and travel resources out there for our community.
For more on Lords South Beach, email www.lordssouthbeach.com .