No sooner had voters in Maryland declared gay marriage legal than Visit Baltimore, the tourism bureau for the state’s largest city, rolled out the welcome mat to assist same-sex couples with wedding venues, lodging, vendor suggestions and honeymoon plans.
Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, said the tourism bureau is encouraging the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to celebrate their commitments to one another in the city.
“We have long been proud to support the rights and equality of our visitors, and the legalization of same-sex marriage is another important step forward,” he said Wednesday.
Baltimore’s LGBT outreach began long before Tuesday’s vote. The tourism bureau has supported the LGBT community through advertising and other initiatives like its “Rainbow Round-Up” quarterly e-newsletter and sponsorship of events like Pride. The bureau’s LGBT advisory committee of local tourism and business partners also assists in producing an annual LGBT Visitors Guide to Baltimore.
Now, they have a new microsite that provides free planning assistance for gay weddings and “everything same-sex couples need to know to get married in Baltimore,” including practical information like how to obtain a marriage license beginning Jan. 1, 2013. The website also directs visitors to TAG-approved accommodations, or those that enforce non-discriminatory policies and provide diversity and sensitivity training to employees.
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Maryland, Maine and Washington became the first states to recognize same-sex marriage via a public vote. They join six other states (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont), the District of Columbia and two Native American tribal jurisdictions (the Coquille Tribe of Oregon and the Suquamish tribe of Washington) in legalizing same-sex marriage.
Tourism industries that have recognized the importance of marketing to the LGBT community have reaped the benefits, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. The association’s president, John Tanzella cites New York as a prime example.
“New York City is actively marketing for domestic and international gay couples to visit, get married and honeymoon,” Tanzella told the Pew Center recently. “The city predicts it will generate $310 million over the next three years in incremental revenues.”
Community Marketing, Inc., a San Francisco-based company that focuses on the gay and lesbian market, puts the national economic impact of gay and lesbian travelers at more than $65 billion each year.