Image: "Gayborhood", Philadelphia
Matt Rourke  /  AP
A street sign is seen in a gay-friendly section of Philadelphia known as the "gayborhood". Philadelphia has become more sophisticated in its effort to attract part of the annual $55 billion gay tourism market.
updated 7/30/2007 8:10:01 PM ET 2007-07-31T00:10:01

When the city rolled out a national ad campaign aimed at gay tourists four years ago, some of the commercials featured same-sex couples in Colonial costumes.

"Come to Philadelphia," the ads said. "Get your history straight and your nightlife gay."

Since then, the city has become more sophisticated in its effort to attract part of the annual $55 billion gay tourism market, targeting subgroups within the gay and lesbian community.

"Destinations will need to further refine what they're offering the gay traveler. No longer will it be enough to say, 'Hey, we're gay-friendly. You should come here,'" said Jeff Guaracino of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.

Philadelphia has been focusing recent marketing efforts on lesbians, who are less likely to have visited the city than gay men, according to Deborah Diamond, director of research and strategy for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation.

The tourism agency partnered with R Family Vacations, a cruise company founded by entertainer Rosie O'Donnell and her partner Kelli that caters to gay and lesbian families. The city is also reaching out to gay athletes by meeting with gay softball, bowling and soccer leagues to accommodate their competitions, and it recently hosted the International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

"Every community wants to be addressed specifically," said Thomas Roth, president of San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc., which specializes in marketing to gays and lesbians. "I think the whole concept of the gay and lesbian market is so '90s. Because, just like the mainstream, gays and lesbians are looking for more personalization."

Philadelphia saw a $153 return for every dollar spent on its marketing campaign, according to a 2005 gay tourism survey. But now more than 75 cities around the world have gay tourism campaigns, as do travel companies like Orbitz, Travelocity, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

With so much competition, it's important for cities to play to their strengths, said Ben Finzel, co-founder of Out Front Blog. If they're marketing to single gay men, for example, they should advertise opportunities for meeting other gay singles. Older gay couples might be more interested in hotels, dining options and historic sites.

"It's important for any destination to be genuine and honest. Destinations shouldn't try to be all things to all people if they don't have all things to offer all people," Finzel said.

John Wermuth, 43, who lives in Atlanta, visits Philadelphia about once a year. On a recent trip, he went to Independence Hall, the Museum of Art and the theater — the same attractions that draw mainstream tourists.

When he visits, he stays at the Alexander Inn, a gay-owned hotel in the heart of the "gayborhood," an area of gay-friendly stores and restaurants.

Innkeeper John Cochie, who founded the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus, said he has seen business grow since the city began its national campaign in 2003.

"It's kind of funny," Cochie said, "because we banter a little bit that we're a straight-friendly establishment."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Gotta Love Philly

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    The preserved prison cell of America's best known gangster, Al Capone at Eastern State Penitentiary. A leading symbol of illegal activities in Chicago during the Porhibition Era, Capone spent eight months on a weapons charge 1929. Eastern State Penitentiary, now a museum, was built in 1829 and closed in 1971. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Cyndi Janzen displays the United Stats Flag as she plays the part of Betsy Ross at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Visitors admire a Porsche 917, left, on display in the "pit road" section at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia. (Tom Mihalek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Visitors view the high-definition LED screen in the main lobby of the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. This city best known to tourists for its historical sites and museums has a surprise new high-tech hit that began to develop into a must-see attraction in 2008. (Justin Maxon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Schoolchildren stand in line next to a giant two-story papier mache-on-metal heart as they wait to walk through the Philadelphia icon at the Franklin Institute. The giant heart is one of the Philadelphia area's best-known icons, and a rite of passage for school groups across the region. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Independence National Historical Park where the Liberty Bell, an international symbol of freedom is hung. The park's World Heritage Site, includes Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were created. (MPI via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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    The cello-shaped 2,500-seat auditorium of the Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. It was the first major concert hall to open in the 21st Century, and is one of the world's best performance venues. (Coke Whitworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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    A bronze bust of musical great Gustav Mahler, conceived in 1909 by French sculptor Auguste Rodin, exhibited next to other busts in the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Behind the fountain in JFK Plaza, Philadelphia's century-old City Hall is illuminated at night. (George Widman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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