With Philadelphia thoroughly ensconced in PRIDE and local businesses embarking on marketing concepts, both good and bad, the question now is how does one do something both earnest and inclusionary, while making a buzz.
The Sofitel Philadelphia off Rittenhouse Square on 17th Street has several answers with everything from a rainbow-clad flag raising ceremony to a drag tea, an art exhibition and a French-themed sonic soiree, Fête de La Musique.
Along with showing off a Pride Hall of Flags throughout June, the Sofitel Banquet will donate money from certain menu items and its Liberté cocktails to Philadelphia’s Attic Youth Center.
Out Director of Sales and Marketing, Anthony Geistwite, is the curator, catalyst and keeper of the flame for the hotel’s smooth, savvy and sensitive moves when it came to selling Pride.
“We have a diversity committee at every Sofitel in the world,“ said Geistwite.
According to him, the company’s corporate overseer, ACCOR, “encourages, appreciates and celebrates diversity,” adding that the diversity committee is “all a part of an overall approach of openness that seeks to promote workplace equality and prevent discrimination.”
Geistwite said that locally the team wants to connect to the Philadelphia community and understand ways Sofitel can make a difference.
Asked if diversity efforts translate to dollars, Geistwite said that ACCOR has a long-standing relationship with the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and that locally Sofitel has hosted Pride events and initiatives for as long as he can remember.
“This past weekend for Pride in Philly, we saw many guests arriving just in time for the parade. We also have hosted local LGBTQ events and mixers for community groups before, and we have a history of being connected with local LGBTQ small businesses.”
Guests and event participants alike are greeted by an oversized rainbow flag with Philly’s addition of the black and brown stripes on the outside of the building. Inside the building, through June, the lobby has been renamed Philadelphia’s LGTBQ Hall of Flags with a host of flags representing a variety of communities within the LGBTQIA-plus community.
“People no longer have to identify with just being gay or straight,” Geistwite said. “There are so many gray areas in life and in love and people should feel comfortable in their own skin. Sofitel has always been a place of diversity and inclusion and we want everyone who walks through our doors to feel comfortable and feel welcome.”
The next Pride-centered event Sofitel will host is the second Drag Tea on June 15. The first was held June 8. The sequel, again featuring Brittany Lynn’s Drag Mafia offers a spin on Sofitel’s time-honored traditional classic afternoon tea service.
Then on Sofitel’s playlist is a mini block party celebration of music — the annual, Fête de La Musique. Every year the event is on World Music Day, June 21, during Pride month.
Geistwite said, “We have always attracted a strong presence at the event from our local LGBTQ community — and this year with our vision of expanding our Pride celebration, it made sense to include Fete.” Look for drag performances, queer music and complimentary lite bites and cocktail samples.
“This entire initiative is about inclusion and diversity while recognizing and celebrating the LGBTQ community,” said Geistwite. “With everything going on in the world today, we want it known, loud and proud, that we have been and will always be a hotel of love, support and tolerance.”