Saturday, September 08, 2012

B. wants to have a town similar to Provinceton/Guerneville that's near to Seattle. Unfortunately for B, I spent most of the afternoon wrestling with geographic models of gay male social networks, and approaches to understanding them. It's useful to look at what helps support these kinds of gay resort villages (GRVs).

I'm going to use the dataset from Handel, Shklovski, "Ambiguity, Risk and Disclosure" (In press at GROUP 2012: Sanibel Island, FL) as a basis for the analysis, mostly because I have it on my machine so I can do quick and dirty queries against it. I decided to look at the four largest cities by population from this dataset (n=13442). A simple table really helps illustrate how GRVs work from a population / financial basis:

City "Partner" GRV CBSA Percentage
San Francisco Guerneville ~9.5%
Chicago Saugatuck 7.5%
Los Angeles Palm Springs ~9.5%
New York City Fire Island 9%

As a key to this, look at Los Angeles. It's GRV is Palm Springs. And, the Los Angeles CBSA constitutes about 9.5% of the total population of the dataset. Note: I'm playing really fast and loose with my Core-Based Statistical Areas here. But, I don't think it really impacts my basic argument.

What sort of jumps out here is that these cities all have about 7.5-10% of the total population of the dataset. And together, they are more than one third of the entire dataset (35.5%) This suggests that a GRV needs a huge catchment basin to be successful. Unfortunately, even a generous reading of the Seattle catchment basin (WA, OR, ID, and MT) only gives us about 4% of the dataset (even though, suprisingly, it is #6 on the by-city list).

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I just don't see how it's going to work from simple numbers perspective. There are two caveats here, though. First, I think the proper analysis here needs to use something more sophisticated, like the gravity model for understanding demand forecasting. The second is that using this model, I can't really explain Provincetown. Provincetown's catchment basin is only 2.25% of the dataset. Admittedly, the Handel/Shklovski is a purely gay male dataset, and lesbians may be critical for the success of smaller GRVs.


Anonymous B said...

I think we're going at this from two different sides: I'm coming at it from the supply side (there are X potential villages that are potential Washington GRVs, one of them must work!) and you from the demand side ("Is there adequate market for a GRV?")

According to your spin on the dataset, 7-10% CBSA percentage is usually needed for a GRV to exist, but if we can list just 12 GRVs, then your dataset suddenly can become greater than 100% of itself. If your dataset doesn't include (or undercounts) people in Europe, does that negate the existence of a Sitges, Mykonos or Torremolinos? Provincetown also disproves this percentage floor, but New England also has more population density in general (i.e. it needs a smaller catchment basin to support a GRV) than other parts of the U.S. So, there's got to be something else going on.

I think a better frame for estimating actual demand is to calculate the gay population of a metro area and find that (let's say) 250,000 LGBT citizens within a maximum catchment area (X square miles, Y hours driving) are needed to support 1 GRV. Some metro areas may have a ratio that can support more than one (i.e. 1.4, 2.2) GRVs (or, for the one GRV, support it nearly year-round) and others are closer to 1.0 and do, in fact, have an associated GRV. Also, presumably, there are metro areas, like Dallas, that could support a GRV, but don't. It'd be interesting to figure out why.

While GRVs are thought to be quantized (Rehoboth Beach is a GRV, Panama City isn't) my interest is in the case where a town could just be gay-ish enough. If the Pacific Northwest (and I'd define the Seattle/Northwest catchment area as WA, OR, BC*, and not ID or MT) has a catchment area which qualifies for (let's say) 0.7 of a GRV, there are plenty of potential towns that could be gay-ish: cute towns that are quaint, arty and (by the way) a bit gay; vs. being gay first and foremost, and also quaint and arty... like a Palm Springs, Saugatuck or Fire Island where the ratio is greater than 1.0 and these towns are gay to the exclusion of other tourists (because they can afford to be).


8:23 PM  
Anonymous B said...


My original question was also interested in the size of the potential village, since I do think this can be done de novo. In Washington state, there are several towns that have tried to revive their local economies through tourism aimed at the wealthy and mobile Puget Sound population: Westport/Ocean Shores for beach getaways, Walla Walla for wine wine, Ellensburg for mountain biking and hiking. As public acceptance shifts in the state, eventually one will chase the gay and/or alternative traveler, despite the risks and lost business from the anti-gay market. The McMenamin family has gotten Portlandian hipsters to spend their weekends in places far afield as Forest Grove and Centralia! Just as Richard Florida uses acceptances of LGBTs for a city's openness, there are plenty of straight travelers that would revel in an openly-gay-friendly travel destination, which also makes up for the needed delta of 0.3 to make a GRV stick.

If, let's say, a successful GRV would want to be between Seattle and Vancouver, nearly equidistant between the two (or at least far enough from one to qualify as a "getaway") then the size of the target town is key. Anacortes may be quaint, but is probably too large for it to be made into a GRV, even if metro Puget Sound had the (gay) population of the Bay Area. Bow-Edison may be small enough to take over, but doesn't have adequate amenities to be a draw. (I'd also say the same for the current uncoordinated concentration in Robe/Verlot/Silverton.) La Conner hits that sweet spot: just big enough to have existing amenities, just small enough to work, just cute enough to be a getaway. Others might as well, and people had great suggestions today. If a town has the 0.7 GRV which we'd be able to support, I do think this could happen.

My main aim is have us choose our GRV before it chooses us. I agree that a gravity model could be interesting to look at next. Let me know how I can help.


* It's possible that Vancouver could support its own GRV and not need to contribute to the American Pacific Northwest in order to get critical mass for a Cascadian GRV. The population of the GVRD is about 2.3M and post-9/11 security fears could make it worthwhile for Canucks to cultivate their own GRV north of the border. I'm sure there are small towns on Vancouver Island or in the Interior that would make a nice GRV/VVG (village de vacances gay). The passage of Referendum 74 and the re-election of Obama, along with the strong Canadian petrodollar would make a stateside GRV more appealing to Vancouverites.

8:24 PM  

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