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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 20, 2007

P-FLAG honors visitors bureau for resource guide

Cleveland--The Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau was honored for their outreach to LGBT community at a picnic marking PFLAG Cleveland’s 22nd anniversary on July 15.

The event, which took place in the Friends Pavilion at the Shaker Lakes Nature Center, drew a crowd of about 50 people, leaving some standing when the picnic tables quickly filled.

Tamera Brown, vice president of marketing for the bureau, came with her husband and daughter. Near the end of the afternoon, she was given a gift bag of P-FLAG items including a trio of Tshirts and a mug, as well as an award for her personally and one for the bureau offices.

While accepting the award, she spoke briefly about her affection for P-FLAG, or Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and how great a resource the group had been for her mother-in-law.

Brown and the Convention and Visitors Bureau were honored for the organization’s introduction of both an LGBT resource guide for travelers to Cleveland as well as the introduction of a section on their website,, dealing specifically with items of interest to LGBT travelers.

For Anne LaFrance-Kemmer, the publicity director of P-FLAG Cleveland, it was a gratifying first picnic. As a member of the group for only a year, she was not sure what to expect.

“It definitely, with Tami and her family there, was indicative of the inroads we’re making towards becoming more known in the Cleveland area,” she said, referring both to P-FLAG and to the LGBT and allied community as a whole.

“We were thrilled with the tremendously gratifying turnout and the supportive response that we’re receiving from the outside community,” she continued. “It is indicative of the sea change we’re going to witness for the LGBT community and especially in the travel and tourism industry, because this is a group of people who have a lot of disposable income and we would be ignorant not to take advantage of that to encourage people to come to Cleveland and for Cleveland to be a welcoming community.”

“We need to tout more who we are and what we’re about, and the guide and the website is just the first step in that process,” she concluded.

Sharon Groh-Wargo, president of the Cleveland chapter of P-FLAG, explained the group’s Community Award, which was first given last year to newspaper columnist Dick Feagler for writing against Ohio’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment.

“The award goes to the person or agency who has done something to advance acceptance and understand of the northeast Ohio LGBT community and their friends in the last year,” she explained. “We took out the word ‘tolerance’ because we wanted to move beyond just tolerance.”

Groh-Wargo was pleased with the convention bureau’s announcement earlier this year that they would introduce the resource guide and have a button on their homepage linking to information for LGBT visitors.

“We thought that this was a good initial step to improve Cleveland and northeast Ohio, how welcoming the area would be to visitors and those relocating here,” she said, noting that it reflects well on the area “as both a tourist location and also for those considering relocating here.”

Brown brought a stack of the LGBT visitors’ guides with her, and they were in high demand after being introduced at Cleveland Pride in mid-June.

While cities like Toronto and Philadelphia had already jumped on the idea of marketing to the LGBT community, Cleveland was almost alone in Ohio in their efforts. Only Akron, which has partnered with Cleveland in the “Cleveland +” promotional campaign highlighting Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Youngstown, has advertised in LGBT publications.

 “In an increasingly competitive economy, it is imperative for businesses and organizations of all kinds to aggressively identify and communicate with emerging market segments,” Akron-Summit CVB spokesman Jim McMahon told the Akron Beacon-Journal. “They want messages [developed directly for them], whether it’s for cell phones or vitamins, you name it.”





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