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Originally published July 18, 2013 at 6:20 PM | Page modified July 19, 2013 at 10:53 AM

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Seattle’s new LGBT Visitors Center aims at niche dollars

The Seattle LGBT Visitors Center opens on Friday on Capitol Hill, only the second such center in the country.

Seattle Times staff reporter

For more information:

www.travelgayseattle.com

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A visitors center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tourists opens Friday on Seattle’s Capitol Hill — the second of its kind in the country.

The small, street-front space, in the lobby of 1st Security Bank on Broadway, will provide visitors with information about gay-friendly destinations and attractions throughout the region — from casinos to restaurants to art venues.

The only other such center is located in Miami, which ties with Seattle as the 10th ranked destination for LGBT tourists.

“People in many parts of the country don’t know this area as well as we think they do,” said Louise Chernin, executive director of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA). “It’s not the first place people think of to visit.

“Being a city so beautiful and progressive, in a state with marriage equality, we can be a great partner in bringing new revenue to our area.”

The Seattle LGBT Visitors Center is the result of an initiative launched three years ago by the GSBA, Seattle’s LGBT chamber of commerce, whose members include such companies as Microsoft and Boeing.

At the time, LGBT chambers in many U.S. cities began exploring ways to capture the niche LGBT tourist dollar, which some estimates put at around $70 billion a year.

With higher disposable incomes on average, gay and lesbian travelers comprise approximately a 10 percent share of the overall U.S. consumer travel market.

Washington is one of 12 states where gay and lesbian couples may legally wed. About 14 percent of the same-sex couples that have married in Washington state since it became legal last December have been from out of state.

There are no special tourist destinations for LGBT people. The businesses, destinations and attractions featured at the center and on the website, travelgayseattle.com, are all members of the LGBT chamber.

“All visitors enjoy similar things. ... Folks in the LGBT community love to support businesses that support them,” Chernin said.

The center is on the north end of Broadway, away from the busiest stretch, but between two Capitol Hill favorites — Poppy and the Bait Shop.

The 200-square-foot lobby space donated by the bank will feature brochures, guides, maps and other offerings by chamber members in the hospitality and tourism industries.

It will highlight popular local tourist destinations from Pacific Place to Pike Place Market as well as spots in British Columbia.

A 60-inch television in the window will scroll information about places to visit and things to do in and around Seattle.

There’s also a website — travelgayseattle.org.

“It’s a permanent rainbow on the Hill,” said Rachael Brister, deputy director of the GSBA.

Chernin said a lot of the inspiration for the Seattle center came from the Miami/Dade initiative, which opened its visitor center three years ago, and helps to draw 1.2 million LGBT visitors to the region each year.

The Seattle center won’t be staffed full time, but GSBA employees will stop in from time to time and 1st Security employees will be trained to answer basic questions.

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or lturnbull@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @turnbullL.

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