Distinguishing Vermont as the state that actively welcomes LGBT travelers has been a priority for me since day one as commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing (VDTM). In collaboration with Vermont Gay Tourism Association (VGTA), VDTM has bolstered LGBT outreach by developing a marketing and communications plan unprecedented in the history of our state department.
The first effort by VDTM to promote Vermont as an LGBT destination was the production and promotion of a video featuring Gov. Peter Shumlin. In this video, Shumlin extends an open invitation to the LGBT community to visit Vermont. As the video circulated trade shows in New York and Chicago in early 2012, our department began work on a more structured campaign, involving LGBT event sponsorship, advertising, public relations, lead generation and development of online resources.
Since its launch in 2001, the State of Vermont’s official tourism website, www.VermontVacation.com, has undergone countless innovations and it will inevitably evolve further. While technology and design change, the Vermont brand has remained consistent and continues to be one of the strongest in the nation. One notable, recent addition to VermontVacation.com came in June 2012 when VDTM added content that specifically invites LGBT travelers to visit the Green Mountain State. An LGBT info link resides on the homepage and nearly every page in the website, and directs visitors to www.vermontvacation.com/lgbt.
An ingredient of VDTM’s LGBT marketing campaign is sponsorship of major events that draw a national LGBT audience. This summer, VDTM and Vermont Ski Areas Association (Ski Vermont) are co-sponsors of Family Week, August 3-10 in Provincetown, Mass. Organized by the Family Equality Council, the 18th Family Week is the largest national gathering of the LGBT-headed family community. VDTM and Ski Vermont began LGBT co-promotions in July 2012, sponsoring Provincetown for Women, running LGBT vacation contests and promoting LGBT events on and off ski slopes.
Also sponsored and attended by VDTM, the upcoming third annual Northern Decadence Food & Travel Expo is Sept. 15. Organized by VGTA, this event during the annual Vermont Pride Festival in Burlington celebrates Vermont’s diversity, tourism and culinary culture. Assisting in VGTA’s ongoing promotional efforts, the state also provided funding for the organization’s presence at Boston Pride in June 2012.
Another component of building LGBT outreach is through developing contacts with the LGBT community. In fall 2012, VDTM collaborated with Trapp Family Lodge on a getaway contest; nearly 1,000 couples registered for the promotion and continue to receive monthly travel information from VDTM.
Now that all six New England states have legalized marriage equality, VDTM also shares LGBT outreach through Discover New England, an international marketing organization. We work together to market New England as an LGBT destination in Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan.
It’s an honor to be in a state and an industry that values inclusiveness and tolerance. Vermont also values its tourism economy and VDTM strives to ensure that travelers to Vermont feel welcome, regardless of their sexual orientation. We will continue to tell this story as part of the Vermont brand and as part of the VDTM mission: To promote Vermont’s travel, recreation, cultural and historic attractions, as well as the state’s goods and services, in coordination with public and private sector partners and to market to a global audience in a manner consistent with the values and traditions of the state for the economic benefit of all Vermonters.