Greater Fort Lauderdale will welcome the 25th Annual Southern Comfort Conference to its sunny shores  later this year, a first for the state of Florida. The destination will host the conference, one of the largest gatherings of the transgender community in the world, for the next three years.

The four-day conference, held at the Bonaventure Resort & Spa from September 29 through October 3, 2015, anticipates 1,000 attendees including partners, spouses, family members and trans individuals. In addition to attending seminars, workshops and networking events, participants will enjoy sightseeing, gourmet food, nightlife and entertainment throughout Greater Fort Lauderdale.

“As a destination that welcomes all people with a diverse, safe and open community, we aim to put trans people in the forefront of the LGBTQ community instead of being the often forgotten ‘T,’” said Richard Gray, LGBTQ managing director for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We are educating lesbian and gay travellers, mainstream audiences, and using our platform as a leader in the LGBTQ travel space to illustrate Broward County’s commitment and respect for trans individuals.”

A clear pioneer, Greater Fort Lauderdale is the only CVB in the U.S. with a designated LGBTQ department and in 2014, commissioned the first-ever survey of transgender travellers in North America with the goal of identifying the travel motivations, needs and priorities of the market.

The CVB’s survey helped to identify the motivations for travel, destination and hotel selection by the transgender community, as well as other specific needs. It also provided insight as to how the CVB could communicate appropriately with transgender travelers and deliver a sensitive and authentic welcoming experience, including providing training to the local community.

The survey is an extension of the destination’s latest initiative which emphasizes a respect and commitment for the market. The CVB has created an advertising campaign to be included in mainstream outlets, “Where Happy Meets Go Lucky,” that features authentic transgender models. In addition, the bureau has created a designated landing page for transgender travelers, placing the forgotten “T” in front of the well-known acronym LGBT.

“We are thrilled to bring our conference to such a welcoming, progressive and beautiful destination for our 25th year,” said Lexi Dee, President of the Southern Comfort Conference. “I look forward to our conference and partnership growing over the next three years with the help and dedication of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, which has led the way for the trans community and helps to deliver an authentic and welcoming experience for transgender visitors.”

Broward County native, LGBTQ rights activist and teen trans role model Jazz Jennings will deliver a keynote speech during this year’s conference and sign copies of her “I Am Jazz” book, which details her life as a transgender youth. Jennings is the star of TLC’s recent documentary series “I Am Jazz,” which traces her everyday life. Other high-profile guests expected to attend include Zackary Drucker, associate producer of the Emmy-nominated TV series “Transparent.”

Greater Fort Lauderdale has long been known as a diverse travel destination dedicated to raising the bar for universal inclusion. The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau has been proactively targeting and welcoming the LGBTQ market since 1996, when it became the first Convention & Visitors Bureau with a gay-centric vacation planner dedicated website on a CVB homepage.


About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist based in Toronto with a focus on tourism, lifestyle, entertainment and community issues. He has written several travel articles and has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He’s willing to take on any assignments of interest, attend parties with free booze, listen to rants, and travel the world in search of the great unknown. He’s eager to discover the new, remember the past, and look into the future.