For the first time, Amtrak is courting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered travelers with a targeted $250,000 multimedia advertising blitz this summer.
The government-owned rail company is looking to the LGBT community for business with the hopes that its propensity for travel will translate well into rail transportation.
While Amtrak spokeswoman, Karina Romero did not go into specifics, she told The Daily Caller, “We are always looking for new ways to reach potential passengers and this community travels a lot.”
Darlene Abubakar, the director of national advertising for Amtrak, told TheDC, “Most all of the major airlines, hotels and others in the travel and tourism industry target the LGBT market segment … Amtrak ‘s goal is to raise the level of awareness of the benefits of train travel and increase consideration and ridership amongst this segment.”
Abubakar said that for this fiscal year, ending in September, the publicly funded company will spend a quarter million dollars to market its services to the LGBT community. She was quick to add that the corporation does have plans to continue the campaign into the next fiscal year but has not yet finalized its budget. Amtrak allocates about 10 percent of its media budget to diversity and advertising campaigns but that amount fluctuates year to year.
Amtrak has targeted other demographic groups in the past, including students, seniors, veterans, families with children, Hispanics, African Americans and international customers. However this is the first time it has aimed its efforts toward the LGBT community. Romero told TheDC that Amtrak advertisements would be featured in television and publications specifically geared toward the LGBT population.
Aaron Hicklin, editor in chief of Out Magazine, was enthusiastic about the prospect of Amtrak advertising in his publication. “I think the LGBT community is a great demographic given it’s tremendous mobility, and higher likelihood to take short city breaks in the U.S. to destinations served by Amtrak.” He continued, “Clearly Amtrak appreciates that our community is a significant market that responds to targeted advertising. Many airlines have established LGBT marketing campaigns to great success, and there’s a clear opportunity for Amtrak to remind our readers that there is a viable, in many ways more efficient, alternative, particularly on short-haul routes.”
Andrea Lafferty, the executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, had a different take when she heard that Amtrak would be using tax-payer dollars to attract the LGBT community. But she was not surprised. “We have to look at why they are targeting this community. It is important to understand that this segment of the population has a lot of disposable income, and advertisers know this,” She said. Lafferty said that examples of direct marketing to the LGBT community helps put to bed claims of discrimination in the workplace and society. “It is absolutely not true that gays are unable to get jobs because they are discriminated against. This group is awash in money,” she said.
The Human Rights Campaign weighed in on Amtrak’s new strategy. Daryl Herrschaft, spokesman for the LGBT advocacy group, told TheDC that this was a sign that the public sector was catching up to the private sector. “Public sector operations are working in the same market as private which has come to recognize and capitalize on the vast LGBT market,” Herrschaft said. “The private sector is already well ahead in terms of its treatment of gays in the workplace.“
Dr. Paul Cameron, chairman of the Family Research Institute, by contrast, expressed outrage at hearing the government would be funding a campaign to engage LGBT people. “This seems to me like an inappropriate use of public money,” he said to TheDC. “Social justice demands responsibility and this group of people shun that responsibility. Public money ought not be used to aid, abet, and perpetuate this lifestyle.”
Regardless of what advocates for traditional values say, Amtrak is moving forward with the initiative. The company spearheaded one of its initial attempts at outreach last Tuesday at the Washington Nationals sixth-annual LGBT themed baseball game. “Yoooou’re OUT! Join Team DC & your friends in the LGBT community for an evening at the Ballpark … Offer includes FIERCE discounts on game tickets, special reserved seating, pre-game on field recognition of event organizers & distinguished members of the LGBT community!” the Nationals advertised. Amtrak is an official sponsor of Nationals baseball, but given the opportunity, Abubakar said that Amtrak jumped at the chance to have its name attached to this particular night.