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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
February 2, 2007

Move over, San Francisco

Bureau to promote Cleveland as an LGBT travel destination

Cleveland--With the help of the Cleveland LGBT Center, the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland is reaching out to LGBT tourists, selling the area as a travel destination.

While Equality Ohio has rated the state dead last in LGBT equality, cities individually are open to sexual minorities. Columbus, Toledo and Cleveland, along with two of Cleveland�s suburbs, have elected gay or lesbian city council members, and Dayton is the first city in Ohio with a gay school board member.

Cleveland also has two bathhouses, four women�s or primarily female-oriented bars and at least a dozen other gay bars, in addition to a variety of gay-friendly stores, restaurants and shopping districts.

�When I travel, I want to make sure that where I stay is a gay and lesbian friendly place,� said Sue Doerfer, executive director of the Cleveland LGBT Center. �I want to make sure I�m not going to be given a hard time.�

While larger cities like Toronto and Philadelphia have already reached out to LGBT tourists, smaller cities are beginning to as well. Cleveland�s neighbor Akron already has an �Out in Akron� ad campaign in place.

�We have been promoting to traditional audiences for a while now, and I think families in Pittsburgh are pretty familiar with what Cleveland has to offer,� Convention and Visitors Bureau spokeperson Tami Brown said jokingly.

Brown pointed out that tourist numbers in Cleveland have been going up, and the city would like �to continue that trend by expanding to new audiences.�

Part of the outreach will be a queer-specific page on the Convention and Visitors Bureau website.

�We�ll launch that webpage when our whole website relaunches in the middle of April. We�re supposed to meet with Sue Doerfer in the next couple of weeks to continue [discussions on content.]�

While the bureau has been working on this effort for some time, the launch comes during a year when at least three national queer conventions will be in town.

The National Association of People with AIDS, the National Association of Black and White Men Together and American Veterans for Equal Rights will all be holding their conferences in Cleveland this year.

The NABWMT conference will partly coincide with the tenth anniversary Black, Gay and Proud Celebration, one of the oldest black LGBT Pride festivals in the nation.

The Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend will also bring people from across the region, if not the nation, into Cleveland for its sixth annual event.

One of the advantages to the LGBT outreach will be greater knowledge of the incentives that the bureau can offer to queer conferences and conventions.

�Sue gave us leads on a variety of other conventions,� Brown said. �We�ll certainly work with our partners as we do with other conventions to try to meet their needs.�

She added that, by offering assistance to conventions that are already booked into the Cleveland area, they increase their chances of bringing them back to the city in the future, which brings even more dividends.




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