As warm and inviting in person as the city she calls home, Laura Kaplan is happy to help us understand what marriage equality means for tourism in South Florida. With attention to both social and fiscal climates, she offers an insider’s perspective of the economic forecast.
Q: How would you say your clients have positioned themselves to better serve the LGBT community?
A: My clients are definitely focused on downtown Miami and Miami Beach. Some of them have sort of gone off-market, farther south, or maybe up north but my clients are really focusing on the growth in Miami. They’re telling me that relative to other major markets, Miami is relatively inexpensive. It’s a great destination as a springboard to other places. A lot of my clients are coming from the northeast and other places where they look at Miami as a cost-effective place to do business, and they’re excited about the opportunities.
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Q: How does the region — or even the state — stand to gain economically?
A: There will for sure be an increase in tourist dollars and weddings. There’s a popular website, gaydestinationweddings.com, which shows a 77 percent increase in inquiries for gay weddings in South Florida. My clients are starting to get inquiries. I had a client — a friend actually who serves the wedding industry — that was telling me that in 20 years of business he did about four same-sex weddings. In the last six months he’s done five. If that continues, I think we’re going to see tremendous things.
Q: Why do you think LGBT travelers should choose South Florida?
A: Oh my gosh... beautiful beaches, great shopping, great, diverse community. I think the Latin influence makes us special and different from other destinations in the country. You have the benefit of the foreign community without having to travel abroad. There’s amazing food and great infrastructure — and it just keeps getting better. My friends come down from New York for the beaches, and they’re blown away by how beautiful
this place is.
Q: What other issues do you think the industry should support?
A: I think we need to open up our eyes and our hearts to the children and understand that they’re kids like everyone else. My daughter has many friends whose parents are same-sex couples and she has questions, like, “When your daughter says mommy, who answers?” It’s just answering very simple questions.