Gay travel: South Carolina in an uproar over advertising campaign

South Carolina is outraged over an advertisement campaign by Amro Worldwide, a UK specialist in gay and lesbian travel, which labeled the Palmetto State “so gay” in a series of posters throughout the London Underground.

Looking to boost its profile among the UK’s gay and lesbian community, Amro devised its ‘so gay’ campaign nearly a year ago and reached out to various U.S. tourism boards last October to see if they would participate.

Shortly thereafter, Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Washington, D.C. confirmed their participation. Last November, South Carolina jumped on board.

The campaign debuted at Underground stations in Leicester Square and Covent Garden during London’s recent Gay Pride Week celebrations. For South Carolina, the posters touted the state’s gay beaches and Civil War-era plantations.

Apparently, it seems that South Carolina tourism officials didn’t really understand what they was agreeing to. At first, top officials said the campaign sent a positive message to gay travelers. But as outrage increased, they now say they knew nothing about the campaign and are disavowing participation, according to, refusing to pay the campaign’s promoter, Out Now, the $5,000 fee for the posters.

The low ranking official in the state’s department of parks, recreation and tourism department who got the state involved with the campaign in the first place has resigned.

Oran Smith, the president of a South Carolina conservative activist group, tells “I think with today’s economy, we have to be really smart with our tourism dollars, and South Carolina’s market, very clearly, is the family-friendly market. So if we want to spend our dollars in a way that’s wise, we need to go after our market, and our market is families.”

Amro Worldwide wants to know what all the fuss is about. The view among many in the gay and lesbian community is that being ‘so gay’ is not the putdown it perhaps once was, but rather a positive thing, the company says.

Just don’t expect Main Street South Carolinians to agree. One Charleston resident who spoke to says, “We’re so gay? Nah. Wrong state. Go to California.”

It’s worth noting that the other U.S. destinations involved in the campaign are not complaining.

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