US anti-LGBT laws: Tourist boards respond after UK Government's travel warning

The tourism bodies for the US states of North Carolina and Mississippi are getting to grips with a PR headache after the British Government issued advice warning LGBT travellers of the risks of visiting in the wake of new legislation.

(Credit: virsuziglis/Thinkstock)
(Credit: virsuziglis/Thinkstock)

In March, North Carolina passed legislation that bans transgender people from using public toilets that do not match the gender on their birth certificates, while in April Mississippi passed legislation meaning the state will not punish people who refuse to provide services to others because of religious opposition to same-sex marriage, extramarital sex or transgender people.

This prompted the UK's Foreign Office to update its advice for travellers to the US last month. Its new advice reads: "The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country. LGBT travellers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi."

LGBT rights group Stonewall's London office issued this statement in response to the news: "What’s happened in Mississippi and North Carolina proves that equality is never secure. It’s positive to see the UK Government recognise this need and update its travel advice pages accordingly."

The Mississippi Tourism Association told PRWeek UK that tourists have been cancelling or postponing trips to the state due to national media reporting on the new law, but it wanted to stress that all visitors are welcome.

In a statement, the MTA said: "Our industry is made up of large and small businesses that employ over 115,000 Mississippians, each who cherish the individual freedoms that have made America great. But, with this freedom comes responsibility, and we believe that we must take the responsibility to reiterate the Mississippi Tourism Industry's message of welcome that is the hallmark of our great state.

"As the industry on the front line, cheerfully welcoming visitors to our home, we are redoubling our efforts to demonstrate that Mississippi is, indeed, the Hospitality State."

North Carolina’s tourism authority, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, also admitted that "some visitors have expressed hesitation about travelling to our state" and that businesses have expressed reservations. These include PayPal and Deutsche Bank, which have stopped plans to create jobs in North Carolina.

In a statement, it said: "The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina recognises there are varied opinions on House Bill 2. As a private non-profit organisation that operates under contract with state government, we typically do not comment on matters of public policy.

"We are confident our state's lawmakers and governor will work together to consider ways to best address the concerns of all parties affected by this legislation, and we encourage a timely resolution of this matter."

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