by Adam Manno
"The focus is on the LGBT history of Charleston," said Bulldog's head tour guide John LaVerne. "We’re also going to cover some basic Charleston information and historical facts that people are going to need to know so they have a better understanding of what Charleston is about."LaVerne currently has one LGBT guide hosting the tour, with hopes of adding others in the future.
"When you’re talking about the struggle of people’s rights, it helps when you have someone whose lived through that," LaVerne said.
According to The Post & Courier, The National Travel and Tourism Office reported 33.9 million international visitors to the U.S. through June, an almost four percent drop from last year. However, an estimated seven percent of American adults identify as LGBT, with the community's buying power estimated at $917 billion, according to a 2017 report by the United Nations World Tourism Organization. The report also estimated that about 36 million international overnight tourists were LGBT in 2016.
LaVerne credits the CVB for their progressive — and practical — marketing tactics.
"Let’s be honest, the gay travel market is awesome," LaVerne said. "We’re talking a group of sophisticated travelers with disposable income."
CVB spokesman Doug Warner, who helped the Belmond with the bloggers' itinerary, echoed a similar sentiment.
"It's a demographic that's a pretty lucrative portion of [the Belmond's] property," Warner said. "We're talking about a certain economic and education level, but we don't segment our marketing that way."
"'The Real Rainbow Row' walking tour is a FABULOUS two-hour interactive exploration of Charleston’s rich, gay history and current LGBTQ community," reads the Bulldog Tours website. "Join Bulldog Tours as we skip along the cobblestone streets and discover the colorful stories that form a unique part of Charleston's history."