Philly wins bid for repeat media convention

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LGBT journalists and bloggers from around the country will converge in Philadelphia this winter — their second trip in as many years.

The sixth-annual LGBT Media Journalists Convening will be held locally March 13-15. The event is sponsored by the Eveyn and Walter Haas Jr., Fund and hosted by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

The Haas funding covers accommodation and travel costs for the attendees. About 80 attended last year’s event in Washington, D.C.

The convening was held in Philadelphia for the first time in 2013. The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection again put in a bid to host, and bested other cities in the running.

“We sent out a request for proposals to the convention and visitors bureaus for several cities and then we go back and forth with the cities, and this year it was mostly between Philly and Baltimore,” said Bil Browning, founder of The Bilerico Project.

Browning said one of the biggest draws about Philly is its resonance with past attendees.

“We send out our survey every year to attendees about what they liked, what they didn’t like and ask if they’d like to come back to that city. Philly’s really dominated in terms of where people say they’d like to go back,” Browning said. “Everybody wants to go back to Philly, they just loved it.”

During the bid process, Browning visited the city and met with Visit Philly director of public relations Bruce Yelk, Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress executive director Greg DeShields and Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau national accounts manager James Delmar.

Among Delmar’s charges is attracting LGBT conventions.

He said the convening’s former success in Philadelphia was an important factor in securing the bid.

“The membership was most interested in returning to our city, and that tends to be an important deciding factor,” he said. “But we were able to show five hotel options that were union properties, as requested, and within the budget they were looking for. And we’re fortunate to be a very walkable city. Not all of the hotels were within a block or two of the Gayborhood, but the city is so much bigger than just that four- or five-block Gayborhood. The entire city is LGBT-friendly.”

The competition didn’t hurt either, Delmar joked.

“We don’t like to lose here in Philadelphia so we did everything we could to beat down our competitors,” he said.

The city is going to sponsor the Friday night dinner, and PCVB is going to work on securing a guest speaker, Delmar said.

“Additionally, we’d like them to go around and check out the Gayborhood, historical and cultural activities that we, unlike some other cities offer, so I’ll be assisting with building out those itineraries,” Delmar said.

Because the accommodations are at a lower price point, the convening may be able to welcome a few more guests this year, Browning said.

The event will be themed around the future of the LGBT-rights movement after marriage.

“That topic allows us to work in discussions around HIV/AIDS, bisexual, trans issues,” Browning explained, also noting that breakout sessions will be held for the first time. “People have been saying they want the opportunity to talk and interact with each other more, so we wanted to break out into smaller groups to make that happen.”

The host committee for the event includes former PGN editor Sarah Blazucki, as well as Trish Bendix, Brynn Tannehill, Faith Cheltenham, Mark King and Steven Thrasher.

Delmar has worked to bring other LGBT conventions to Philly, including the Pipeline Project and this fall’s National Gay and Lesbian Flag Football Tournament, and the convening continues a growing trend.

 “For years, Visit Philadelphia has worked hard to attract LGBT leisure travelers and they’ve done an outstanding job and now, through some collaborative work with Visit Philadelphia, we’re working hard to focus on what seems to be the future of the LGBT market, the groups and meetings market. This is a coalition we’re building in the hospitality community to generate more room nights, tax revenues and jobs,” Delmar said. “We have so many organizations such as the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city, Visit Philadelphia, Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus, PGN, the Independence Business Alliance, who are all working in tandem to put out the word that Philadelphia is a great place to meet for the LGBT community.”