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LGBT forum seeks to help Hudson Valley businesses attract same-sex tourists
Hudson Valley hotels, bed & breakfasts and other tourism-based entrepreneurs, take note: To reach a growing upscale market of metro area customers, start by serving an alphabet soup that includes “LGBT” -- and maybe even “Q”.
The letters stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, which these day, is often followed by the proud addition of “Q” for “queer.” Businesses that want to avoid common mistakes and learn new strategies for tapping this audience have their chance to learn more at the inaugural Big Gay Hudson Valley Gay & Lesbian Tourism Conference.
The goal is to help business folks – especially straight ones – to “add a gay-affirming voice to marketing,” said Patrick Decker, co-founder of the biggayhudsonvalley.com website, a listings and entertainment guide for the region.
The know-how offered will begin by making businesses aware of the power of “neutralizing language” and better promotional photos, Decker said. Think “wedding suite” instead of “bridal suite,” he suggests. And instead of running shots of a man and woman dining or strolling in the woods, consider a photo of two men at a table reading their newspapers or two women chatting over a glass of wine.
Many venues are even awkward in confirming room reservations via a phone call when the front desk employees see the names of two guests of the same sex sharing a room with one bed. The way to go, advises Decker, is to avoid being judgmental: “Just confirming that the reservation is for X and Y, queen bed.”
A huge potential market is the gay and girl-girl wedding world “where it’s about people breaking out of what a traditional wedding should look like,” Decker said.
Scheduled to run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 27 at Locust Grove Historic Estate at 2683 South Rd. in Poughkeepsie, the $99-per-person event includes access to breakfast, lunch, an opening panel discussion on marketing basics plus a choice of two out of four workshops. The morning selection options are either “Taking a Community Inventory” or “Polishing Your Brand Impression.” In the afternoon, the alternatives are either “The Race to the Gay Alter” or “Successful Case Studies.”
The event is the brainchild of biggayhudsonvalley.com, an online events and listings guide started in the Poughkeepsie home of Decker, a freelance producer for the Food Network, and his husband, Stephan Hengst, who is communications director for the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
Decker said he is expecting about 150 registrants at the event, which is co-sponsored by Hudson Valley Tourism, the 10-county region designated by the state’s ongoing “I Love New York” tourism campaign.
Although no one seems to have any statistics on the size of the LGBT tourism sector, the conference is a start, organizers say.
"This conference is intended for all business owners -- straight or gay -- who are looking to expand the reach of their services," said Mary Kay Vrba, executive director of Dutchess County Tourism, in a statement on the event.