Vermont's gay-pride celebration kicks off this week in Burlington. This year, there may be more out-of-state participants involved thanks to a new state-led effort.
When Vermont passed gay marriage in 2009 some forecasted the move would generate about a 10 million dollar bump in the economy annually. But, 12 years after the state created civil unions and three after allowing gay marriage, the state is just beginning to market itself to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers.
Vermont Gay Tourism Association President Willie Docto says the economic impact of gay tourism is huge. He and his partner run the Moose Meadow Lodge in Duxbury.
He says about half of the weddings held at the lodge are between L.G.B.T. partners. The site hosted the state's first gay marriage in 2009, and the first gay military wedding almost exactly one year ago.
Docto says the state failed by not marketing to the L.G.B.T. community immediately after civil union legislation passed in 2000. "(Vermont) had the corner on the gay wedding market and we kind of lost the opportunities there," he said, "Montreal does it, Boston does it, Provincetown does it, it's about time that Vermont does it."
This summer, in concert with the Vermont Gay Tourism Association, the state added an LGBT tab to its VermontVacation.com page. "We're really hoping this is going to grow our market share of travel to Vermont," said Vt. Department of Tourism and Marketing spokesman Steve Cook.
Cooks says the bulk of the marketing will focus on areas within a 6 to 8 hour drive - like Boston and New York. The campaign focuses on Vermonters' acceptance of the LGBT community and asks for a little love in return. "We've been going on the promise of open spaces and open minds," said Cook.
Beyond the openness pitch, Docto says the message should be identical to any other state promotion. "Gay and lesbian travelers like the same things that any other traveler enjoys," he said.
In a scenic state like Vermont, that should be an easy sell.
Docto says estimates indicate that each L.G.B.T. wedding brings about $500 per attendee into the Vermont economy. State spokespeople say they don't have numbers indicating how much of an impact gay tourism currently produces for the state but believe they will as the marketing campaign continues.
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