KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The Key West Business Guild, one of the oldest gay business associations in the United States, this year marks its 40th anniversary of serving LGBTQ travelers to Key West — a subtropical island that welcomes approximately 300,000 LGBTQ visitors each year.
Launched in 1978, today the nonprofit association includes more than 500 member businesses. It promotes Key West to national and international travel markets, provides comprehensive information to visitors and addresses the specialized interests of LGBTQ travelers.
The guild now ranks among the nation’s leading gay business associations, with award-winning marketing and global advertising campaigns supported by the Florida Keys tourism council.
“The guild was the first organization of its kind to advertise a gay-friendly tourist destination in the U.S.,” said Peter Arnow, who has served it as community liaison for more than 25 years. “It actively promoted same-sex marriages and works hard to provide an entertaining, alternate social experience.”
Since its inception, the guild has earned a widespread reputation as a resource for LGBTQ travelers to Key West. Staff members assist thousands of walk-ins each year at its 808 Duval St. visitor center, providing a welcoming introduction to the island, insider’s tips and information about local attractions and businesses, answers to their questions and even an LGBTQ-focused map of the area.
The guild also has cultivated thousands of followers on social media and responds to scores of telephone calls, emails and website inquiries each week.
As well as visitor services and promotion, the organization coordinates several annual special events that are designed to appeal to the LGBTQ market. Among them are Key West Pride, Womenfest, Tropical Heat and the Headdress Ball.
While celebrating its 40th birthday year, the guild continues its mission of serving LGBTQ travelers to Key West. Its visitor center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Key West Business Guild information: gaykeywestfl.com, 305-294-4603, 1-800-535-7797