Catch the Wave: Opportunity Rolls in at Florida Hotels Following Freedom to Marry Ruling

Hotel weddings in Florida properties have always been big business. And now, they’re bigger business. A January 6, 2015 ruling made the Sunshine State 36th in the nation to rule in favor of same-sex marriages, sweeping away a ban like footprints in the sand.

Talk about pent-up demand…within days of the ruling, the Tampa Bay Times reported that tourism insiders felt an even bigger buzz than in 2011 in New York City when that state’s law was revised.

A 2014 Williams Institute UCLA School of Law study indicates that $117 million could be spent in year one by LGBT Floridians holding in-state weddings, without even tallying out-of-state destination wedding spend. The Big Apple turned in an estimate of $259 million related to gay weddings in the first 12 months.

Appealing to the LGBT travel segment is nothing new in the marketing department of many Florida hotels already invested in reaching out. Speaking about pre-marriage equality legislation, Wilton Manors City Commissioner Justin Flippin said, “Broward County saw 1.2 million LGBT visitors spending over $1 billion annually.”

According to Sandy Heydt, Vice President of Sales at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, “Since the hotel’s inception on July 1, 2013, it has been a supporter of marriage equality through such organizations as the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Compass and Florida Equality.” She adds, “Our wedding and events team has seen a spike in this segment of the wedding market, and therefore our sales and marketing team is giving extra attention to this market segment.”

In Coral Gables, the historic Biltmore Hotel, a well-established wedding venue with more than 100 weddings per year, introduced a new wave “Love is Love” campaign during the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in 2013. The positive response planted seeds for that hotel to now see smaller commitment ceremonies re-fashioned as milestone weddings, director of catering Natalia Plasencia has told the Miami Herald.

The opportunity to turn a warm weather vacation into a proper destination wedding, complete with a legal marriage certificate, is all good news and “it will be a big economic boost,” according to CBS Miami.

Nearly three-quarters of all 50 states have passed marriage equality laws. If your property is due for an update on its social, wedding and F&B collateral, this is the right time for inclusiveness in images and content, both in print and on websites. In fact, the knock-on effect of doing so can generate positive PR, as in the case of the Biltmore Hotel.

Updating standards to serve new guest segments or offerings is a specialty of Coyle Hospitality Group’s consulting team. We assist brands and independent properties looking to create service offerings that are perfectly positioned to appeal to changing segmentation in the marketplace. Additionally, we offer rooms reservations and sales/catering mystery shopping calls.

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