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Published August 10, 2012, 11:30 PM

Site OKs hotel as first LGBTQ-friendly in F-M

Visitors bureau president says he feels F-M area more accepting than other parts of country
MOORHEAD – Travelers from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning community can find friendly accommodations more easily with the help of tagapproved.com.

By: Jessica Ballou, INFORUM

MOORHEAD – Travelers from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning community can find friendly accommodations more easily with the help of tagapproved.com.

The website boasts more than 1,800 LGBTQ friendly hotels and attractions across the world.

In March, Courtyard by Marriott in Moorhead became the first hotel in Fargo-Moorhead to receive Tag-Approved status. To qualify, a business must:

• Enforce nondiscriminatory policies including sexual orientation.

• Treat heterosexual and domestic partners equally in personnel policies.

• Provide LGBT diversity and sensitivity training for employees.

• Empower customers and employees to be “watchdogs” of its gay and lesbian business practices.

• Employ staff who reflect the diversity their community.

• Give back to the community.

Nicole Moen, director of marketing with the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, learned of the website last October at the Gay and Lesbian Tourism conference in California.

One of the conference sessions was led by Thomas Roth and David Paisley, president and senior research director of Community Marketing Inc.

The company launched tagapproved.com to promote LGBTQ friendly hotels and attractions around the world.

Paisley and Roth traveled to the Courtyard by Marriott a few weeks ago to explain tagapproved.com to representatives from Marriott and other hotels in the area.

“Sometimes it does take us going to a community to get them involved,” Paisley said. “We were really well received in the Fargo-Moorhead area during the seminar.”

About 20 people from the lodging industry attended the seminar, including employees from the Courtyard by Marriott.

Barry Kuhnke, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott, heard about the process of becoming Tag Approved about six months ago.

He said the Marriott chain’s stance and policies have always focused on equality, and being Tag Approved just makes it more official.

The Courtyard by Marriott markets its Tag-Approved status on its Facebook page, and is listed on gay-friendly travel sites such as gaytravelocity.com.

Charley Johnson, president and Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO, said the LGBTQ community was a market his group identified as being one to focus on. He feels the F-M area is more welcoming and accepting than other parts of the country.

“Biases and prejudices are in every part of the country, no doubt about that, but I think that’s trumped by kind spirit and the ability to get along with everyone,” he said of the F-M area.

“Everything we do with the LGBTQ community will be baby steps for us,” Moen said. “It’s still raising awareness as to why it’s important.”

She said the CVB’s ultimate goal is looking at equal rights within the community.

“In order to promote your destination, you have to first support it,” she said. “I am a huge supporter of equal rights, and people are always going to have their own opinions on the matter, but at the end of the day it is about treating another human being with respect. That’s it.”

Businesses interested in getting Tag Approved can go online to http://tinyurl.com/TagApproved.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Jessica Ballou at (701) 235-7311