Virginia’s first LGBT Tourism Task Force meeting stresses inclusion, economic impacts
Wednesday morning, in House Room 1 of the Virginia State Capitol Building, Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney swore in the Governor’s LGBT Tourism Task Force.
The group will issue recommendations on how to make Virginia more welcoming to the LGBT community.
Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Maurice Jones, welcomed the group stating, “Tourism is a vital component of Virginia’s economy. It is a real growth engine. We need to continue to perfect our democracy. We need to be inclusive, reach out to, utilize and welcome every talent that there is. On behalf of the Governor, thank you for volunteering and thank you for what you are going to do on this Task Force. The Governor is very excited about your work.”
Before echoing Secretary Jones’ comments, Virginia Tourism Corporation (“VTC”) President & CEO Rita McClenny asked the group to pause and reflect on the historical moment that was taking place within the hallowed halls of the Virginia Capitol. Governor McAuliffe has long said that his goal is to “foster a more inclusive Commonwealth.” McClenny praised the Governor’s passion for making Virginia “inclusive and welcoming” so that everyone can live, work, play and invest here.
The “Virginia is for Lovers” campaign has been in place for 45 years. In tourism, McClenny noted, we are selling “memories, joy and love. Love is a short but very powerful word. Love is at the heart of everything we do. It is a component that has magic in it.” As Virginia continues to “create timeless values, this Task Force will sweeten it all.”
This Task Force is not just about love and goodwill—it’s got some economic teeth to it, too. Last year, Virginia’s tourism industry generated $21.5 billion, approximately $59 million every day. These funds created $1.42 billion in local and state tax revenue and supported over 213,000 jobs across Virginia. In 2014, the LGBT community’s purchasing power exceeded $835 billion (surpassing that of the Asian-American community).
LGBT tourism is a $100 billion industry. The LGBT community has a higher median income than the general population. Last year, 97% of LGBT consumers took a vacation, compared to the national average of 64%. LGBT consumers take between 5-7 vacations per year. LGBT consumers spend $2,300 per year on leisure and travel, compared to non-LGBT consumers who spend only $1,500 per year.
When it comes to travel, people want to go places where they can be themselves and enjoy authentic experiences. This is especially true for the LGBT community as it continues to come out of the closet and expand its equality portfolio. In working to make Virginia’s tourism industry more inclusive, VTC Director of Partnerships & Outreach, Wirt Confroy, noted that VTC is focusing on three fundamental tenets: authenticity, connectivity and visitor experience.
The Task Force aims to showcase Virginia as a destination where LGBT travelers can be themselves and enjoy all that Virginia has to offer.
“I’m impressed by the wide-range of tourism and business experience and acumen shared among the task force members,” said Confroy. He stressed the move toward seeking LGBT tourists is a matter of staying competitive, citing Virginia’s State Tourism Plan as a model to follow for the group.
“Virginia must focus on our authenticity, connectivity and visitor experience,” he said. “The task force’s initial conversations and focus on knowing the LGBT market, the importance of authentic, fulfilling experiences and an eagerness to dig deep into research, best practices and the education of our industry leaves me very excited about task force outcomes, and the positive affects they will have for Virginia’s hospitality and economy.”
Secretary Stoney articulated the philosophy underpinning the purpose of the LGBT Tourism Task Force: “We can’t build a new Virginia economy without new Virginia values.” Chief Operating Officer of the Virginia Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (“VGLCC”) and Task Force Member Jesse LaVancher embraced this philosophy in his introductory remarks, stating that the group must work to “diversify and strengthen Virginia’s economy.”
“The Virginia Tourism Commission team put together an impressive primer for the group on LGBT Tourism and emphasized that Virginia is the first to coordinate an effort of this kind,” said Kevin Clay of Big Spoon Agency. Clay was picked as part of his council for his background in LGBTQ marketing. “It’s exciting to be a part of that. Most of the community efforts to date have been focused on the city level.”
“People truly came out and celebrated who and what they are. It was amazing.”September 26, 2016
- Photos: Gov. McAuliffe’s 2015 LGBT Pride Proclamation, June 16, 2015
- Governor McAuliffe Honors Virginia LGBT Pride Month 2015, June 3, 2015
- First meeting of VA’s LGBT Tourism Taskforce happens tomorrow, March 10, 2015
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