Valley Forge Visitors Bureau Offers Gay Travel Sensitivity Training to Area Hotels

In Valley Forge, being gay-friendly means more than just being friendly

For gay and lesbian couples checking into a hotel it can sometimes be a very awkward situation. To help alleviate some of that uneasiness the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania offered gay travel sensitivity training recently to 50-plus area hotel employees via two live skits at one of their member hotels. The training was coordinated by the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus in partnership with Temple University’s School of Hospitalityand Tourism.

The training involved a series of short sketches of real-time dialogues between actors and participants designed to simulate situations they might experience involving LGBT guests.

Actor Carly Bodner (left) plays a front desk clerk, as fellow performers Tyrone Holt (center), and Eric Singel portray a gay couple checking into a hotel.

Tom Haberland, director of tourism and sales for Valley Forge CVB, said the organization sponsored the program to foster understanding of the growing LGBT tourism market.

“Most of the participants were from hotels. We had housekeeping, engineering, sales, all across the board. You can have them geared to restaurants and attractions. I find that we have some people out there that could be interested. It took a little urging of people to come to this. But when they were all there, they participated,” said Haberland.

Nine of the CVB’s member hotels have become “TAG (Travel Alternatives Group) approved” as gay friendly, as certified by Community Marketing, Inc., a global leader in gay and lesbian marketing.

According to Tami Sortman, president of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus (PGTC), using actors, the gay sensitivity training program aims to show firsthand how service industry professionals can act in ways that are damaging and hurtful not only to visitors, but to the businesses in which they serve.

“We started gay sensitivity training back in 2006 and Valley Forge was the first visitors bureau to participate,” said Sortman.

Biking at Valley Forge National Historical Park in King of Prussia, Pa.

Sortman contends that there’s a change happening. “More and more hotels and attractions are jumping on board. You can see it in the TAG approved hotels along with the increase in “GAY DAYS” at ball parks and amusement parks, as well as zoos.

“The training identifies and builds the necessary skills to actively manage diversity of all types in the service industry and teach techniques that will enable participants to gain a better understanding of how hurtful biases negatively impact the LGBT consumer,” she said.

Haberland added that the training also deepened participants’ understanding of what being “gay-friendly” means for the hospitality industry.

More information is available at www.valleyforge.org/gay

Now that the hotels in Valley Forge have received training on how to welcome gay and lesbian travelers, it will be interested to hear about our members’ experiences, if they happen to visit the area.

Comments are closed.