- Bulldog Tours recently began offering a “Real Rainbow Road LGBT Tour”
Walking tour behemoth Bulldog Tours is now offering a private, and pretty exclusive, view of the Holy City through rainbow-colored glasses.
The “Real Rainbow Road LGBT Tour” first debuted in mid-October for a cohort of lucky travel bloggers (like this one writing for The Huffington Post) invited to the city by the Charleston Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the Belmond Charleston Place hotel.
The two-hour walk relies heavily on information compiled by CofC librarian and historian Harlan Greene. Tourists hear stories of the gay artists who helped usher in the Charleston Renaissance, as well as about author Dawn Langley Pepita Simmons, who underwent sexual reassignment surgery in 1968 and later formed part of the first documented legal interracial marriage in Charleston.
“The focus is on the LGBT history of Charleston,” said Bulldog’s head tour guide John LaVerne. “We’re also going to cover some basic Charleston information and historical facts that people are going to need to know so they have a better understanding of what Charleston is about.”
LaVerne currently has one LGBT guide hosting the tour, with hopes of adding others in the future.
“A white, middle-class person can certainly do a gullet tour, but when you’re talking about the struggle of people’s rights, it helps when you have someone whose lived through that,” LaVerne said.
According to The Post & Courier, The National Travel and Tourism Office reported 33.9 million international visitors to the U.S. through June, an almost four percent drop from last year. An estimated seven percent of American adults identify as LGBT, with the community’s buying power estimated at $917 billion, according to a 2017 report by the United Nations World Tourism Organization. The report also estimated that about 36 million international overnight tourists were LGBT in 2016.
LaVerne credits the CVB for their progressive — and practical — marketing tactics.
“Let’s be honest, the gay travel market is awesome,” LaVerne said. “We’re talking a group of sophisticated travelers with disposable income.”
CVB spokesman Doug Warner, who helped the Belmond with the bloggers’ itinerary, echoed a similar sentiment.
“It’s a demographic that’s a pretty lucrative portion of [the Belmond’s] property,” Warner said. “We’re talking about a certain economic and education level, but we don’t segment our marketing that way.”
“‘The Real Rainbow Row’ walking tour is a FABULOUS two-hour interactive exploration of Charleston’s rich, gay history and current LGBTQ community,” reads the Bulldog Tours website. “Join Bulldog Tours as we skip along the cobblestone streets and discover the colorful stories that form a unique part of Charleston’s history.”
Tickets start at $150 for a four-person tour. Reservations are required for the private tours.