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Ads tout Mass. as a gay-friendly destination

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Jenn Abelson
Globe Staff / February 29, 2008

The Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism is unveiling a new campaign today, with 90 advertisements showcasing destinations and lifestyles across the state, including its first spots featuring same-sex couples.

The travel office is spending $4.6 million on the campaign - about 35 percent more than last year - and will expand its reach into new markets, including Albany, N.Y., and Providence. The ads will debut this afternoon at the 21st annual Massachusetts Governor's Conference on Travel & Tourism and will begin airing on television and appearing on the tourism group's website starting April 1.

This is the first time Massachusetts, which became the first state to permit gay marriage in 2004, will officially capitalize on its gay-friendly status through its tourism campaign. The new campaign has several ads that feature same-sex couples, but the most direct targeting includes a biracial male couple in Provincetown, visiting the art museum, sharing a meal, and walking down the street arm in arm.

"We're spending taxpayers' money here, and we don't want to paint a picture of one version of Massachusetts. This is a place that is diverse and varied," said Betsy Wall, executive director of the travel and tourism office. "We're trying to show that Massachusetts is welcoming to everyone and there truly is a lot to do here for a lot of different people."

Gay and lesbian travelers make up about 10 percent of the travel industry, and the annual economic impact of these tourists is about $64.5 billion in the United States alone, according to Community Marketing Inc., a San Francisco company specializing in gay tourism marketing.

The explosion in the gay tourism industry has led numerous cities and towns to promote their gay-friendly spots, such as Seattle and Dallas, but Massachusetts is one of the first on a state level to reach out to these audiences, said Thomas Roth, the president of Community Marketing.

Pennsylvania recently started targeting the gay and lesbian market after a successful Philadelphia campaign showed that gay and lesbian travelers who saw the ads stayed longer and spent more than those who did not see it. Community Marketing, which conducted the research, said that for every dollar invested into the campaign, Philadelphia saw $152 in return, through hotel stays, restaurants, and attractions.

The Massachusetts campaign includes television, print, radio, online, direct mail, a guide book, and other promotional efforts. The theme for the ads, produced by Wenham advertising agency Mullen, is: "There's so much to see and do in Massachusetts, we have to run a new ad every day."

The unprecedented 90 spots allowed the state to feature different lifestyles and destinations across Massachusetts, such as a woman in a wheelchair riding along Horseneck Beach in Westport Point. The state's travel and tourism industry annually infuses the Commonwealth's economy with upward of $14.2 billion in direct expenditures.

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com.

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