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The Virginia Tourism Corp. unveiled an LGBT-friendly version of its iconic logo and marketing campaign last week, and so far nine places to stay in Norfolk and Virginia Beach and two Virginia Beach wedding destinations have designated themselves as welcoming to the LGBT community.
The marketing push and logo update come almost 50 years after tourism officials adopted a red heart and slogan, “Virginia is for lovers.” The new image features a heart with the rainbow stripes associated with LGBT pride. It also comes as North Carolina faces criticism and boycotts based on opposition to its anti-transgender bathroom law.
“Today, Virginia is for all lovers, and is a great destination for LGBT travelers,” the tourism corporation says on its website. “Our LOVE story is bigger, better, and more inclusive than ever before.”
The announcement also brandished an endorsement from Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
“Virginia is proud to be an open and welcoming destination for every visitor attracted by our scenic mountains and beaches, as well as our world-renowned restaurants, wineries and breweries,” Gov. McAuliffe said in a release.
In addition, the tourism corporation’s website touts the state’s “LGBT-friendly” options for shopping, dining, accommodations, outdoor attractions, meeting spaces, weddings and honeymoons. It also offers branded PRIDE merchandise, including hats and T-shirts, and a searchable list of LGBT-friendly travel destinations.
A check for LGBT-welcoming places to stay in Hampton Roads yielded nine choices, including the Quality Inn Norfolk Naval Base, 8051 Hampton Blvd., and at least three hotels at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront: Residence Inn, 3217 Atlantic Ave., Fairfield Inn & Suites, 1901 Atlantic Ave., and Springhill Suites, 901 Atlantic Ave.
Two Virginia Beach destinations are featured as venues for LGBT weddings: The Military Aviation Museum, 1341 Princess Anne Rd., and the Holiday Inn Virginia Beach-Norfolk Hotel and Conference Center, 5655 Greenwich Rd.
The listings, “self-designated” by business owners and hosts, are being updated daily, the website says.
The LGBT-focused marketing initiative came about in response to recommendations from the governor’s LGBT Tourism Task Force, which met in 2015, according to a release from the tourism corporation. LGBT travelers comprise roughly 10 percent of the the U.S. market and spend about $57 billion in the U.S. each year, the release said; five percent of Virginia travelers identify as LGBT.
“Virginia is one of the few states in the nation to launch such efforts,” the release said.