CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – If you travel anywhere between Washington, D.C., and Tampa, you may have seen an advertisement or two beckoning you home.
It may be something you see in a magazine or on television. The ads are meant to draw people to the Queen City as a tourist destination, so they aren’t seen locally.
The ads show hints about who Charlotte’s tourism leaders are courting, people of diverse backgrounds, families, and LGBTQ+ audiences.
One of the ads prominently featured includes a married gay couple.
“We got a message from someone who saw me at the airport, and I wasn’t at the airport,” said Scott Lindsley, of the first time he became aware that his face was part of a larger tourism campaign.
The image was of him and his husband, Joey Hewell, embracing outside their business, NoDa Company Store.
The store, Hewell notes, has “grown into its own space” and has even been on the itinerary of those visiting the area.
The effort to get various audiences, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, to come to Charlotte has been a long time coming. While LGBTQ+ audiences are not the primary focus, tourism leaders are marketing Charlotte as a tourist destination for that community.
“The real soul of this city is through the culturally diverse people that are here in Charlotte,” said Gina Sheridan with the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
Charlotte may not be the top-of-mind when it comes to LGBTQ+ tourist destinations, but one only has to look at the hard numbers to see that it is.
The 2022 Charlotte Pride Festival garnered 275,000 attendees, making it the largest festival of any kind in North Carolina.
After Atlanta, Charlotte is also considered one of the few spots regionally with a prominent community base and a base of support.
“It’s not just for the Pride community anymore,” said Sheridan of the success of Charlotte Pride. “It’s seen for more arts and culture. It’s seen as a festival, a part of the DNA that’s woven throughout Charlotte.”
The goal may be to get people here and invest in the attractions, sights, sounds, and tastes of the Queen City; however, the hope is that once people come here, they may want to return or stay.