Gov. McAuliffe announces LGBT task force for Virginia Tourism
At a tourism summit in Reston, VA, today, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the creation of a LGBT Tourism task force to help grow Virginia’s fledgling LGBT-focused tourism industry.
“We’re unified by one common goal: to make Virginia a better place to live, work, play, and raise a family,” said Governor McAuliffe according to a press release sent out this afternoon. “Tourism plays an important role in attaining that goal, building communities, and helping drive the new Virginia economy.”
McAuliffe said Virginia gaining marriage equality provides a unique opportunity to build on the greater progress the state has made.
“Not only will this task force focus on showcasing Virginia as an LGBT friendly destination,” said McAuliffe. “It will also work to maximize tourism growth in Virginia with all communities, nationally and internationally.”
According the press release, tourism accounts for about $21.5 billion in Virginia, and employes 213,000 statewide.
Rachel Thomas, a press secretary for McAuliffe, said any estimated budget for an LGBT tourism campaign would depend on future recommendations from the task force and the Governor would evaluate those recommendations at the appropriate time.
The Virginia Tourism Authority was budgeted a total of $19,238,612 for FYE 2014.
Vice President of Community Relations at Richmond Region Tourism, Katherine (Harding) O’Donnell, who helped manage the OutRVA and previous LGBT Richmond tourism campaigns, said McAuliff’s task force has been in communication with her office.
Thomas said the OutRVA campaign could be a model for other cities.
“The task force will be looking at successful campaigns in both the private and public sector,” said Thomas. From the McAuliffe camp, the hope is localities will “develop marketing strategies that will strengthen the Virginia economy and benefit communities across the Commonwealth.”
Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones will lead the LGBT Tourism Task force, and provide ideas and solutions to make Virginia more LGBT friendly.
“Tourism has consistently proven to be a sound investment for Virginia,” said Jones. “It is an instant revenue generator, channeling millions of dollars into the Commonwealth’s coffers and into the revenue stream to local governments.”
The rest of the task force members have not been confirmed yet, but Thomas said it would consist of LGBTQ tourism community, business leaders, and stakeholders.
McAuliffe’s pro-LGBT agenda stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, former Gov. Bob McDonnell. On of McAuliffe’s first actions as Governor was to bring back protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the public work force, he’s also supported VA Attorney General Mark Herring in his refusal to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
McAuliffe was also the first Virginia Governor to recognize National Coming Out Day as well as speak at a Virginia Pride festival.
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