St. Petersburg is on the rise as a top LGBTQ+ tourism destination, reports Sara DiNatale for the Tampa Bay Times. According to a monthly survey conducted by Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater in May, approximately 18,000 visitors to the city identify as LGBTQ+.

St. Pete’s annual Pride celebration, which is the largest in the southeast, has definitely drawn more attention to the area in recent years. Last year the event attracted crowds of 200,000 people, and for the first time was ranked as a major draw for tourists by Pinellas County’s Tourism Development Council.

According to Jim Nixon, who runs the LGBTQ Welcome Center in St. Pete, “St. Petersburg is definitely becoming a LGBTQ destination. Our city is becoming known for being progressive and inclusive.” The Welcome Center just reopened at the beginning of the month following renovations, now with an added focus on tourism.

The center first opened in 2014 as a place to provide community support for LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly youths. They have retained their community programs, but have also expanded to promote tourism and local LGBTQ+ businesses.

Nixon also hopes to persuade more hotels in the area to get “TAG” certified, which would officially recognize them as LGBTQ-friendly. He hopes to feature these hotels and other LGBTQ-welcoming businesses at the center and on their website.

To read the Tampa Bay Times article, click here.