A travel warning issued by the UK is delivering some cautionary advice to British citizens wishing to travel to America’s south – no, it’s not the Zika virus, though it’s a similar fast-spreading epidemic if you will: Rampant anti-LGBT sentimentality. The UK Foreign Office is highlighting potential problems for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender foreigners heading to states like North Carolina and Mississippi.
According to CNN on April 22, controversial new laws passed in the States that are affecting LGBT rights threaten to “cost the U.S. states millions in lost business and tourism.” Tourism drops could further be aggravated by the UK government’s recent updated foreign travel warning.
Per the travel alert, found under the UK government’s “local laws and customs” page for travel to the USA, the US is an “extremely diverse society” and yet “attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country. LGBT travelers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi.”
A separate LGBT travel advice page provides some specific recommendations – even linking an international LGBT travel map which highlights potentially dangerous regions and countries. The site points out that “excessive physical shows of affection, by both same-sex and heterosexual couples, are often best avoided in public.”
Among the US legislation alluded to in the travel warning is North Carolina’s HB2 “Bathroom Bill,” which states that individuals must use public restrooms that correspond to their birth gender – not the gender they choose to “identify” with. The regulation was passed, in part, in order to overturn a February ordinance in the city of Charlotte that allowed transgender individuals to choose a public restroom which corresponded to the gender they currently feel they represent.
According to a recent article by Guardian news, the city of Raleigh has already lost over $3 million in tourism dollars and in one week’s time, losses have quadrupled.
“We continue to receive concerns from definite and tentative groups regarding HB2,” said Dennis Edwards, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We also have a great deal of concern about those groups that were going to consider Raleigh and North Carolina but have now taken us off of their list of consideration due to the bill.”
Ringo Starr, Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen and Cirque du Soleil have also yanked their scheduled performance dates. Pearl Jam posted an open letter on its Facebook page, canceling their April 20 show and calling HB2 a “despicable piece of legislation.” Additionally, PayPal pulled out of plans to build a new operation center in Charlotte.
Similar legislation in Mississippi – House Bill 1513, set to take effect in July – is having a comparable impact to the state. According to a statement from the Mississippi Tourism Association, members “are reporting calls, emails and social media posts from people canceling or postponing trips to Mississippi due to national media reporting on this new law,” the association said in early April.