Caption: Journalists Dan Allen, Ryan Walker, David Perry, Guy Darienzo (Owner of Uncommon Coffee Roasters) and Joey Amato
This August, the convention and visitors bureaus of Grand Rapids and Saugatuck/Douglas joined forces to host their first-ever joint LGBTQ media trip. The trip was designed to invite journalists to explore the two destinations in hopes to increase LGBTQ tourism. The CVBs teamed with Pride Journeys, an LGBTQ public relations firm and travel company to assemble the journalists and help craft the custom itinerary for what would become a very memorable weekend.
"Saugatuck/Douglas has long been known as a haven for the LGBTQ community in the Midwest,” mentions Megan Westers. “Welcoming this group of LGBTQ writers and editors to our area was a great opportunity for Saugatuck/Douglas to resurface on the list of destinations for the next generation of LGBTQ travelers. We at the SDACVB loved sharing the unique meals, beverages, tours, history and experiences that make our region a destination with this group."
The group began their adventure in Grand Rapids where they stayed at the luxurious JW Marriott and visited the city’s gay bars, met with members of the LGBTQ community and had the opportunity to tour some of Grand Rapids most famous attractions including Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and the Gerald R. Ford Museum.
“Grand Rapids probably isn’t top of mind as an LGBTQ destination which is why hosting this press trip in partnership with Saugatuck/Douglas was so important,” said Stephanie Bradley, Public Relations Manager. “Grand Rapids has a lot to offer visitors with varying interests whether that’s arts and culture, food, craft beverage or nightlife. By teaming up with Saugatuck/Douglas, a more well-known LGBTQ area, we could showcase our urban experience combined with their beach town vibe along Lake Michigan- the best of both worlds.”
The next two days were spent exploring Saugatuck and Douglas. The journalists began their stay with a trip to Uncommon Coffee Roasters, a certified LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE). The group got to tour Ox-Bow School of Art, an esteemed school attended by students from around the globe looking to perfect their craft. Soon after, they boarded the Star of Saugatuck, for a cruise along the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan. The journalists stayed at the boutique Blue Star Motel and The Dunes Resort, quite possibly the largest LGBTQ resort in the mid-west.
"Partnering with Experience GR on this trip was a fantastic way to show that if you come to West Michigan, you can get the small, beach-town charm while only being 40 minutes away from city amenities and nightlife,” stated Westers. “Of course, it's also my hope to show the overlap as well; you'll find small-town charm in Grand Rapids, as well as nightlife in Saugatuck/Douglas if one knows where to look."