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LGBT tourist outreach
Cleveland--The NCAA Basketball Women’s Final Four last week was the first test of the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s new LGBT outreach.
The bureau was unable to get a listing of LGBT businesses and events online in time for the tournament, but it was called upon to provide other forms of support.
“We haven’t had any complaints, I can tell you that,” said Samantha Fryberger, director of communications for the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland.
The Final Four brought 20,000 people into town from April 1-3, including an estimated lesbian contingent of up to 10,000 women.
With the national spotlight shining on Cleveland, two out-of-state gay media outlets have expressed an interest in profiling the city, and Fryberger said one has already made firm plans for a junket in July.
The bureau’s new website goes online April 26, complete with a section specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender visitors. A printed LGBT guide to the city will be out in time for Pride in June.
The tournament was a good test for the rest of the infrastructure already in place, including help for event organizers.
That side of things is already being used by a quartet of national LGBT events coming up: the American Veterans for Equal Rights convention next week from April 18 to 23, the Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend April 27-29, the National Association of Black and White Men Together annual convention at the beginning of August and the National Association of People With AIDS’ Staying Alive conference at the end of August.
“Our convention services department is working with them,” Fryberger said of the upcoming events, each expected to draw thousands into the city. “I’ve fulfilled some requests. When the convention services department takes over and says, ‘We need a letter from Dennis [Kucinich] or we need this, that goes to the other departments.”
“There’s already events coming here, and there will only be more in the future, we hope,” she said.
The Cleveland LGBT Center is assisting the bureau with the project, especially the printed guide. Center director Sue Doerfer was unable to attend any of the Final Four events, but says that work on the guide is proceeding well, and their goal of having it out before Pride in the middle of June is well within reach.
“We have many businesses who have expressed interest in being listed,” Doerfer said. “We will begin to sell advertising to pay for the printing in the next few weeks.”
There will also be a benefit for members of the family, so to speak.
“We will be offering a free listing to LGBT businesses even if they are not a member of the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” Doerfer noted.
She hopes that LGBT people in Cleveland will let their favorite businesses know about the guide so that they can sign on as well, increasing the pool of resources available to people coming to town.
“It will provide travelers and visitors good information about where to go,” she said, “where the ‘real scene’ is.”