Local News

Communities pursue gay tourists

Posted September 3, 2008 5:53 p.m. EDT
Updated September 3, 2008 11:23 p.m. EDT

— Several communities in the Triangle are trying to attract more gay and lesbian visitors, saying they are an important segment of the tourism market.

"It is largely dual income, no kids. They have a higher propensity of travel," said Laurie Paolicelli, executive director of the Chapel Hill-Orange County Visitors Bureau. "In order to protect and grow our economy, we must look at new audiences for tourism."

Orange County plans to launch a major marketing effort targeting gays and lesbians, Paolicelli said, noting the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill no longer fills local hotel rooms because of the regional options for visitors to campus.

"I think college towns very much put out that progressive welcome, so it's a good match for us," she said.

Chapel Hill Councilman Mark Kleinschmidt helped make suggestions for a local Web site for gay and lesbian visitors. He said he researches communities when he travels with his partner, and he said information like that offered on the site attracts all types of visitors.

"I think it sends a message to everyone in our community that our community is one that is going to welcome them," Kleinschmidt said.

Durham's Convention and Visitors Bureau, which partnered with Chapel Hill in researching trends in gay and lesbian travel, takes a more subtle approach to its marketing.

"(We) represent Durham as it is, which is a destination that is very accepting, very engaging," said Shelly Green, chief operating officer of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A spokeswoman for the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau said the agency also markets to the gay and lesbian community, especially for conventions and meetings.