As My Gay Houston celebrates its tenth-year anniversary, it encourages us to reflect on the history of this initiative. Houston's LGBT community has long been a resilient one, pioneering equality for all. Over the course of multiple decades, civil rights leaders have vigorously worked towards achieving a world in which LGBT citizens are granted equal rights in the workplace, adequate representation and inclusion in our society.
Since the beginning, inclusion has been an integral part of Houston First Corporation's growth. In 2009, an executive decision was made to launch a website that accurately represented the city's LGBT community and shed a spotlight on our dedication to diversity, charm and culture as a core part of the brand. While our nation has made progress in expanding upon the amount of diversity and inclusion in our society, it still falls short in a few key areas. Despite being a community that favors travel and elevated spending habits, the LGBT community continues to be wildly underserved by the travel and tourism industry.
Though this seems jarring at first glance, it's important to contextualize this with the LGBT community's journey in American society. It was a mere ten years ago that only five states recognized same-sex marriage. Though, Texas was a little late to the game when it came to being an ally of underrepresented communities, it had an ample number of citizens that recognized how imperative it was for the LGBT community to gain the same liberties. And to top it off, its largest city, Houston had become home to an initiative with a goal to successfully market to this underserved community.
Despite the pushback received from both the community and industry in response to marketing Houston as an LGBT-friendly destination, the organization continued to advance their plans for My Gay Houston. Soon after announcing the plans to register the domain, Chief Marketing Officer Holly Clapham was tasked with meeting members of the city council to defend the website's creation. It was there that Clapham explained to council members that expanding their target audience in efforts to rebrand Houston as an inclusive, progressive city would not only improve the city's reputation, but it would also aid in increasing tourism revenue for the city.
Once the concept for My Gay Houston was given the green light, the construction of the website began. The development team sought to create a website that was independent of the existing one, VisitHouston.com, in order to allow them to focus the site's content on entertainment and activities specific to this audience. The team budgeted for a campaign that featured a wide range of Houstonian residents on the LGBT spectrum to run alongside the launch of the website. The goal was to create a safe space for LGBT travelers and work closely with freelancers to ensure that the voice representing this community was as authentic and engaging as possible.
With the passage of time, progression in diversity has followed. A controversial site ten years prior, My Gay Houston now continues to gain traction. Over the past decade, the website's organic traffic has increase by more than 2,000% and 200,000 residents and prospective visitors continue to engage with the site annually, creating a substantial increase in tourism for Houston.
Here at Houston First, we could not be prouder of My Gay Houston's continued progress and will work towards continuing to stand as a shining example of not only a source of diversity and inclusion in the travel industry, but a treasured resource for Houston's LGBT community and communities beyond.
For more information on My Gay Houston, click here.