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Can San Diego become a hub for gay tourism?

SAN DIEGO -- New York has Broadway, Las Vegas boasts hip pool parties and a dynamic night life, L.A. has Hollywood, and San Diego has SeaWorld, the zoo and ... Hillcrest.

Already a top destination for leisure travelers, San Diego, it turns out, also holds wide appeal for the gay visitor and not just because it has a trendy urban neighborhood teeming with gay-friendly bars, restaurants and boutiques. Trouble is, its big-city rivals have been far more aggressive in trumpeting their virtues to the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) traveler.

When thousands of out-of-towners pack up and leave San Diego this weekend after crowding into local restaurants and bars and filling up hotels for the annual Pride festivities, they will have pumped millions of dollars into the local economy. But what about the other 51 weeks of the year when San Diego’s profile as a gay-friendly destination gradually vanishes from the tourism radar?

There’s big money to be made from gay travel, say tourism and marketing research experts, and a California coastal city like San Diego, with wide appeal to gays and straights alike, would be wise to capitalize on what has become a lucrative market niche. A conservative estimate is that the gay community accounts for about 7.5 percent of travel-related spending. Applied to San Diego’s total visitor revenues last year of $7.2 billion, that’s a windfall of roughly $540 million.

Read the full story in UT San Diego HERE.