Gay Tourism Caucus Marks 10 Years

Find out who won the first Absolutely Fabulous Award last night

G Philly's Jennifer Shockley, Gloria Casarez from the City's Office of LGBT Affairs, and Tami Sortman of the PGTC help celebrate the caucus' 10-year anniversary (photo by G Philly)

Last night at the Westin – the same hotel where the founders of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus (PGTC) first met a decade ago – members of the board and the community gathered to celebrate the milestone. A panel of speakers, including G Philly‘s own Jennifer Shockley, talked about the efforts that have helped shaped the LGBT tourism landscape in Philly and the region in the last 10 years – including the history-making “Get your history straight and your nightlife gay” campaign that put Philly on the map.

Meryl Levitz, CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, Gloria Casarez, director of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia, Michelle Shannon, vice president of marketing and communications for the Center City District, and others spoke about some of the group’s major accomplishments, like the rainbow signs in the Gayborhood and guidebooks to LGBT destinations.

Danielle Cohn from the Philly Convention and Visitors Bureau, noted that LGBT tourism is “a core part of the new Philadelphia narrative” as the organization gets ready to launch a new website with multilingual microsites. “The Gayborhood is also on all new maps and guides,” she said. And there have been several new international campaigns unfurled throughout Europe with an emphasis on attracting not only LGBT tourists, but also conventions to the city.

Jeff Guaracino won the first-ever Absolutely Fabulous Award for his work in LGBT tourism (courtesy of Guaracino)

Other new initiatives include gay history lessons on the Big Bus Tours. Tami Sortman of the PGTC, said that the bus tour has “always gone through the Gayborhood.” But now, it will begin talking about the Gayborhood, even making a stop at Giovanni’s Room to see the historical marker – one of two gay historical markers in the state (both are in Philly). The bus tour will also stop by the marker at Independence Hall celebrating the pre-Stonewall “annual reminders” by early gay and lesbian activists.

Last night, Jeff Guaracino, vice chair or the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, also became the first person to receive the Absolutely Fabulous Award for his work in developing major LGBT tourism campaigns in Philly and the region – including his most recent work in Atlantic City.

“I can’t thank enough every single person in the room,” said Guaracino. He also gave away a free trip to Atlantic City. Nurit Shein, executive director of the Mazzoni Center, was the lucky winner.