South Carolina counterproductively drops out of campaign to attract gay tourists

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The State reports:

South Carolina’s top tourism agency has canceled an overseas advertising campaign targeting gay tourists.

The campaign, tied to gay pride week celebrations in London, included ads that proclaimed”South Carolina is so gay.”A handful of other U.S. destinations joined the campaign, including Atlanta, Boston and New Orleans.

After learning last week the state had agreed to spend tax money on the campaign : and spurred by a post on The Palmetto Scoop blog : the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism said Thursday it would not pay the tour operator.

Parks, Recreation and Tourism director Chad Prosser said an agency advertising manager signed off on the contract, proposed by the agency’s London advertising contractor.

The agency will not pay the roughly $4,942 fee to take part in the campaign.

Employees”exercised extremely poor judgment in approving participation in the program,”Prosser said. PRT, he said, will require more review of future overseas advertising, as it does with domestic advertising.

The campaign touts Amro Worldwide, a London-based company specializing in gay travel. The campaign was meant to reclaim the phrase”so gay,”which has been used as a slur, Amro CEO Andrew Roberts said in a press release June 27.

Efforts to reach Amro Worldwide were unsuccessful.

That press release also included a statement from a”South Carolina tourism”spokesperson noting”we think people may be surprised to see our destination reaching out to the gay market.”

Prosser said the employee, who works for an overseas contractor, was not authorized to speak on behalf of the agency. The agency is reviewing how, if at all, to discipline the employees who signed off on the program.

Some lawmakers were shocked to learn about the campaign, with state Sen. David Thomas, R-Greenville, calling for an audit.

Joel Sawyer, spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, said using tax money to support a social or political agenda is inappropriate.

“Our state tourism dollars should be talking about the beaches and attractions of South Carolina,”Sawyer said.

The campaign, which ends Saturday, planted posters all over a single London subway station. Prosser said the agency has asked the S.C. posters be removed.

Once again South Carolina’s homophobes in power have inflicted damage on the economy of this state. In addition to driving away not only gay tourists, but also straight tourists who don’t want to vacation in a climate of bigotry, high tech investors will be alienated by this. And so will a lot of other desirable people – see generally.

–Ann Bartow

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