As the state works to increase its image as an LGBTQ tourism hot spot, the folks at Charlottesville Pride Community Network are hoping to local businesses in on the campaign.
“It’s important for LGBTQ-friendly businesses to be visible and accessible to tourists,” said Amy-Sarah Marshall, President of C-Vill Pride.
“It’s also important for our overall economic growth that we make Charlottesville and central Virginia a welcoming, inclusive environment that attracts the best employers and employees to our region.”
Charlottesville Pride already works to offer support with issues like coming out and networking support groups in the area, and now they’re hoping, with a little nudge from leaders, that local businesses will take part in the state’s LGBT tourism options.
Options include adding a “LGBT” friendly icon to your establishment on the State’s tourism website to help inform sexual minorities if the business will offer their services without issue. Virginia’s LGBT Tourism campaign came out of Gov. McAuliffe’s LGBT Tourism Task Force which was made up of members of the state’s LGBTQ community (including GayRVA Editor Brad Kutner). The group met several times of the last year and offered suggestions to help improve the Commonwealth’s image with LGBTQ travelers.
“Over the past year, the LGBT Tourism Task Force has worked diligently to provide thoughtful, important recommendations on how to make Virginia a welcoming destination to all travelers,” said Governor McAuliffe in a statement sent to GayRVA after the Task Force’s most recent meeting in February of this year. “This unprecedented collaboration of some of the brightest minds from the Commonwealth and beyond provided an important first step towards making Virginia a warm, inviting, and safe place for all travelers. I am very proud of the Task Force’s accomplishments to date, and look forward to the group’s continued collaboration. Today, we can say, truly and emphatically, that Virginia is for Lovers—and welcoming to all.”
“LGBTQ tourists have to perform extra legwork when making travel plans to find hotels and establishments that will welcome their businesses,” explained Marshall. “If finding those LGBTQ-friendly places becomes too hard, and if people have the impression Virginia is not a hospitable place, they may not visit the area at all.”
Tourism represents one of the top industries in Virginia, generating $22 million in visitor spending and $1.5 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Those who identify themselves as LGBTQ have the largest disposable income of any other niche market. As states like Indiana and North Carolina have shown, laws tend to discourage LGBTQ inclusiveness.
“A state being unwelcome to the LGBTQ population can have a detrimental effect,” Marshall said, and she believes even little steps like registering as LGBT friendly can make a difference.
Charlottesville Pride happens 9/17, the week before Virginia Pride, at Lee Park in Charlottesville, VA.
You can read more about Virginia’s LGBT tourism campaign and registering your local business as “LGBT friendly” here.