Expo Absent

Gay travel event skips D.C.

By Will O'Bryan
Published on November 11, 2004, 12:00am | Comments

Since the spring of 2001, gay Washingtonians have been greeted by more than cherry blossoms. That's when the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Expo comes to town. Dozens of travel-related vendors peddle their wares in the Hilton Embassy Row meeting rooms, and scores of GLBT travelers can be spotted walking away through Dupont with bags of swag like Swiss International Airline lip balm or Key West key chains.

This spring, however, it's just cherry blossoms. The expo organizers, San Francisco-based Community Marketing/Travel Alternatives Group (TAG), recently announced the multi-city lineup for spring 2005, and D.C. has missed the boat.

"By far, our New York City show is larger than Philadelphia or Washington," says David Paisely, TAG's production manager. "We confirm the space in New York, and then look at other East Coast cities."

By the time the New York space was confirmed, however, Paisley could not secure a D.C. venue, he says. Adding to the problem is the expo's popularity in Washington.

"The problem in Washington is that it outgrew the space," Paisley says. "We need a bigger space."

Meanwhile, Community Marketing also seems to be re-tooling the expo a bit, having added Montreal and Seattle to the 2005 lineup. Fort Lauderdale-Miami, like D.C., was dropped. The other cities slated for the 2005 expo, which started 12 years ago, are West Hollywood and Philadelphia in the spring, followed by San Francisco in late summer and Montreal in the early fall.

Paisely promises, however, that Community Marketing intends to bring the travel expo back to Washington in 2006. Adding new cities to the scheduling, however, necessitates that not all expo destinations will continue to be annual events.

"Our vendors tell us that doing more than six cities really starts to stretch their time and budgets," says Paisely, adding that aside from San Francisco and New York -- which draw the biggest crowds -- many cities will become bi-annual venues. "More than likely, Washington will be on the every-other-year cycle. We love Washington. We'll be back."