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Reaching the LGBTQ visitor


Last updated 5/16/2019 at Noon

Rachael Brisker spoke at the "Reaching the LGBTQ Visitor" tourism forum at the Lynnwood Convention Center.

At a tourism forum for local business and hospitality leaders around Snohomish County with a primary focus of reaching and engaging the LGBTQ visitor, Eric Moss made the following point:

“You folks have a lot going on up here that could attract people,” said Moss, communications director for the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), pointing to the nature and activities the county offers.

“I hope when you’re looking at this, you are thinking: What am I doing to attract the LGBTQ traveler up here? More than the right thing to do, it’s good business to treat everyone equally and fairly.”

He backed the latter point with a stunning number: The LGBTQ community holds $917 billion in spending power across the U.S., according to research from Community Marketing Inc., the world’s largest LGBTQ market research firm.

Moss’ comments came during “Reaching the LGBTQ Visitor: Marketing, Hospitality and Economic Impact” May 1 at the Lynnwood Convention Center.

The GSBA and the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau sponsored the event.

“We are focused on attracting visitors who will respect our diverse heritage and culture and who will contribute to the health and vibrancy of our natural environment,” said Angie Riley, marketing and communications manager for the tourism bureau.

“Those visitors come in all shapes, sizes, races, religions, ethnic backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientations. I’m talking about all human beings.”

The bureau is a nonprofit economic development agency that collaborates with GSBA, the state’s largest LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce, known for its advocacy work and business workshops for small businesses.

So what can cities such as Edmonds do to attract LGBTQ visitors?

Moss encouraged business owners and those in the hospitality industry to be inclusive in their outreach techniques to the LGBTQ community.

An inexpensive and simple way to help welcome LGBTQ visitors is to make preferred pronouns on nametags or emails from your business, if your business does not have a large marketing budget, Moss said.

“Then customers don’t have to ask and wonder (about which pronouns to use),” Moss said. “This practice is becoming more common, but not as much as I want it to be.”

(This practice is already increasingly part of business communication. An example is Washington State Ferries, whose employees state their preferred pronouns on their email salutations, such as “He/Him/His.”)

Ilona Lohrey is GSBA’s director of membership, outreach and engagement.

“Maybe somebody doesn’t identify in a binary way, and so they use they/them pronouns to be all inclusive,” she said. “We do see this happening more and more, and it is very much driven by our youth. Language changes every day, and the best thing we can do is acknowledge it and try and go with it.”

Lohrey said businesses and corporations have the ability to change policy and legislation.

“Standing up when something is wrong, as a business owner, and using that as your voice is a good way to lend the power of your business for social change,” Moss said.

“We look at everything through a social justice and civil rights lens. We do that by promoting small business issues and LGBTQ civil rights.”

Rachael Brister, a marketing, communications and LGBTQ strategist and founder and owner of RCB Communications in Seattle, went more in depth about other strategies and marketing techniques to make business more inclusive and welcoming to the LGBTQ visitor and community.

According to data from The Williams Institute of UCLA, there are about 225,000 people in the Seattle metro area who identify as LGBTQ. This is an approximate, as it is not easy to ascertain the actual LGBTQ population, Brister explained.

Brister encouraged attendees to be authentic and genuinely support LGBTQ nonprofit and community organizations, which will allow others to see that action and support the business.

It’s more than just the waving rainbow flag during pride season as a business, she said. It’s great to do so, she added, but there is so much more to be done for businesses to support the LGBTQ community and in turn, gain LGBTQ support for your business.

Brister used national companies’ advertising campaigns as examples of how powerful it can be when reaching out to the LGBTQ population.


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