Hudson River Ventures’ Sean Eldridge and Aimee Vargas of Empire State Development Join Big Gay Hudson Valley For New York State Gay & Lesbian Tourism Marketing Conference

Leading Names in Economic Development and Tourism Added to March 27th Conference Agenda to Inspire Business Owners and Leaders

March 7, 2013 – POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Businesses looking for new ways to appeal to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) consumers are encouraged to attend the region’s first-ever tourism marketing conference focused on the GLBT community.  Produced by Big Gay Hudson Valley in partnership withHudson Valley Tourism, Inc. – a 10-county marketing consortium designated by I LOVE NEW YORK to promote tourism for the area – the conference is designed to help all business owners better understand how to build their brand and showcase their services to GLBT consumers.

Big Gay Hudson Valley’s GLBT Tourism Marketing Conference is sponsored by Hudson River Ventures,Hudson Valley Federal Credit UnionBard College’s SummerScapeHoliday Inn Express, and Lola’s Café in Poughkeepsie.

“With New York State serving as a national leader for GLBT rights and equality, businesses throughout the State stand to benefit tremendously from learning how to make themselves more appealing to gay & lesbian consumers,” said Patrick Decker, event organizer and co-founder of Big Gay Hudson Valley.  “This demographic is generally well-educated, affluent, and spends money on recreational ventures like travel.  Speaking the right language with your marketing outreach is fundamental to getting their attention.”

To be hosted at the Locust Grove Estate in Poughkeepsie on Wednesday, March 27th, this all-day event will bring together leading names in tourism, travel, and economic development, as well as elected officials, who will speak to how entrepreneurs can turn their support of GLBT consumers into increased revenue and new business.

Understanding the GLBT Community
The first half of the conference will focus on the demographics, language and culture of the community.  Following opening remarks from New York State Senator Terry Gipson and Mary Kay Vrba of Dutchess County Tourism & Hudson Valley Tourism, Inc., a panel discussion and interactive breakout sessions will relate the preferences and consumer habits of the GLBT community with attendee products and services.

“From a “Spring Cleaning Sale” at a home furnishings store to a huge city-wide festival and parade, the products and services offered by organizations of all shapes and sizes stand to benefit from making themselves relatable and welcoming to gays & lesbians”, says Rich Volo, Co-Founder of the Hudson Pride Foundation, who will be presenting at conference sessions throughout the day.  “It’s just good business to think about how to grow your business”, he finishes.  Aimee Vargas, Mid-Hudson Regional Director of Empire State Development, will complement Volo’s talks with practical tips and information on state-level funding programs that are available to help businesses and organizations secure the funding they need to turn their ideas into reality.

The ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ of Successful GLBT Marketing
Sean Eldridge, national GLBT rights advocate and founder and President of Hudson River Ventures, a small business investment fund, will discuss access to capital for new and existing tourism companies in the Hudson Valley and growth opportunities that he sees for GLBT tourism in the region. The second half of the conference will focus on case studies of small businesses, municipalities, and even regions that have successfully attracted gays & lesbians. Discussions will showcase how local communities like Sharon Springs and the City of Hudson, as well as larger national areas like Philadelphia and Toronto, have branded themselves as “gay destinations”.

Same-sex weddings will also be a topic of discussion for the afternoon sessions, as a variety of businesses ranging from hotels and caterers to florists and photographers can benefit from understanding how gays and lesbians are creating new marriage traditions.  “The New York State Independent Democratic Conference predicted that the adoption of marriage equality stands to make as much as $391 million for the Empire State in its first three years,” explains Decker. “The revenue potential is huge for businesses and regions to position themselves as premier choices for same-sex couples to tie the knot.”

“This conference is intended for all business owners – straight and gay – who are looking to expand the reach of their services,” adds Mary Kay Vrba, Executive Director of Dutchess County Tourism and President of Hudson Valley Tourism.  “Tourism is a tremendous economic and social engine for the entire State of New York.”

A comprehensive event outline and registration information ($99 per person “Early Bird Rate” including continental breakfast & lunch is available through March 16th, after which the price will change to $129 per person) are available now atBigGayHudsonValley.com/Conference.