Illinois is making its first dedicated efforts to attract LGBT tourists from the U.S. and abroad. The state's advertising campaign, "Up for Amazing," debuted its LGBT-specific television spot April 24, and also includes print and digital ads geared toward LGBT visitors. The marketing is part of a broader effort to attract millennials and the so-called Gen-Xers.
Fifteen percent of the funds dedicated to tourism advertising this spring and summer are earmarked specifically for LGBT tourism, Cory Jobe, director of the Illinois Office of Tourism, told Windy City Times. Jobe said that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner views tourism as an economic engine, and that the governor believes the LGBT marketwhose members often have disposable incomes that allow them to travelwill help drive that engine.
Calling the LGBT advertising a "collective effort" within the tourism office, Jobe commended Rauner for supporting the decision to market to LGBT travelers. "I think it's pretty amazing" that Illinois has a governor who understands the LGBT tourist industry, he said, "and gave us the opportunity to go test it, and make sure it worksand it's working."
Aside from the television spot, which runs in eight Midwest markets during the summer travel season, the state travel magazine, Travel Illinois, features a section called "Pride of Chicago."
"Home to the first officially recognized gay village in the United States and one of the world's most celebrated pride festivals, the Windy City embraces its LGBT community," reads the first page of the segment. The accompanying picture, of two men riding bicycles along the lakefront holding hands, is of a real couplerecently marriedsaid Jobe.
The magazine is "another way that we're engaging with the LGBT community around the Midwest," said Jobe, noting that Travel Illinois has a circulation of 500,000 and is distributed in nine Midwest cities.
Additionally, the state's tourism website, enjoyillinois.com, features a section devoted specifically to LGBT attractions in the state.
The new advertisements received praise for showing real gay and lesbian couples "not afraid to embrace each other in very iconic settings in the city," said Jobe. He said that Illinois is the only Midwest state advertising to LGBT visitors, and that while some major U.S. cities advertise specifically to LGBT tourists, he knows of no other states in the country that make coordinated efforts to do so.
While the campaign seeks to draw American tourists to Chicago, Jobe said that Illinois as a whole is well positioned to draw international LGBT tourists. Aside from Chicago, Oak Park, with its Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, and Galena, home to LGBT-owned inns and bed and breakfasts, also play a part in the state's itinerary for tourists from abroad, he said.
"Up for Amazing" is the product of consumer research that showed visitorsparticularly those of the millennial and Generation X demographicswant "authentic" and "unique" experiences, said Jobe. To showcase opportunities for visitors to have authentic and unique experiences, the campaign features a segment called "Illinois Made," which highlights the state's entrepreneursfrom brewers, to woodworkers, to glassblowers. Visitors might know about Navy Pier and Millennium Park, Jobe said. "But they may not know about the great craft beer and craft spirits we have here in the city."
The "Up for Amazing" campaign is currently in its spring and summer phase, and Jobe said advertisements will run through the end of the year. Asked how his office plans to persuade tourists to visit during the harsh winter months, he noted several attractions. Aside from the annual Restaurant and Theater weeks in Chicago, he said, winter brings one of the country's largest migrations of bald eagles to Illinois.
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OUT! Chicago, Illinois LGBTQ Visitor's Guide available
TRAVEL with Cory Jobe: Trying to be 'amazing' Advertising campaign reaches out to LGBTs
TRAVEL in ILLINOIS LGBTs in Oak Park and Western Cook County
TRAVEL IN ILLINOIS Oak Park: The Village Wright Built
TRAVEL IN ILLINOIS Four towns in DOWNSTATE ILLINOIS well worth the time
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And here is a PDF of the entire Windy City Times with pull-out section inside: