President of San Francisco-based Community Marketing, Inc., Thomas Roth, said Michigan’s tourism industry is suffering because it is one of the 13 states without marriage equality.
“Whatever percentage of Michigan’s business now is weddings, it could be increased by including LGBTs,” he said at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism. “Certainly within the state but those who have family here, etc. I think that there’s a lot of opportunity.”
Roth showed a survey of 3,503 LGBT members from September 2014 asking about their travel habits. There were no cities in Michigan ranked in the Top 20 leisure destinations for gay and bisexual men nor gay and bisexual women.
“So it’s a double-edged sword because on one hand you’re not getting that [wedding business],” Roth said. “On the other hand gays and lesbians are probably not coming here for holiday or vacation as much as they would because it’s not an inclusive state when there’s 37 other choices, right?”
Roth also asked Michigan hotels to look at their in-house policies to see if both gay and straight spouses are treated equally or if employees are trained on interacting politely with gay visitors.
He also encouraged them to consider advertising in LGBT publications. Roth said his company keeps a list of LGBT-friendly accommodations approved by the Travel Advocacy Group. Hotels must meet specific requirements like employing LGBT people and enforcing non-discrimination sexual orientation policies for employees to qualify.
Roth said other states have seen an increase in tourism once they embraced marriage equality.