Marketing the Rainbow
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak, is a passenger railroad service that provides medium- and long-distance intercity service in the contiguous United States. Founded in 1971 to take over most of the remaining U.S. passenger rail services, it is partially government funded yet operated and managed as a for-profit corporation.
Queerty called US railroad company Amtrak “a longtime supporter of the LGBT community, as well as other minority groups” (2013), after Amtrak launched an all-inclusive advertising campaign.
The "Ride With Pride" campaign (whose website now, for some reason, is only available in Portuguese) depicted two same-sex couples with children, while directing users to a unique, gay-friendly site featuring vacation packages for Martha's Vineyard and Lake Placid, N.Y., among other popular destinations. "While Amtrak’s main website, Amtrak.com, is a travel-planning resource for all travelers, the microsites are culturally focused travel sites that host the unique, original multicultural voices of a rotating set of featured bloggers," Amtrak said in a statement.
Towleroad, Instinct magazine and MetroWeekly were just three of the numerous media outlets to feature the ads. "At Amtrak, diversity is not just a corporate buzzword, it's a priority," the company notes on the site. "We understand that valuing diversity is not only a good thing to do, but a business necessity beyond compliance that plays a vital role in customer service delivery and ultimately the success of our operations."
For a while, there was an LGBT Amtrak blog, edited by Mark Mastro, but that has now disappeared. The general blog is still alive, and features an LGBT section - for instance with info on Pride events. The special Ride With Pride website later redirected to a more general yourtrainstory.com and now to the blog.
The campaign got praise from LGBT groups, but objections from conservatives, "seeing as the company is tax-payer funded". There was even a debate on the subject on CNN. “Interesting” comments included: “A new marketing campaign uh. Why not just hire the Village People and advertise it as the AIDS train. Or the Abomination Express?” and someone worrying “Isn't that a ride everyone would want to take their family and children on?”, as if gay co-travelers would somehow be detrimental to their health or disposition. One website photoshopped an ad to feature, what they expected (hoped?) to be your typical gay travellers and their kid.
Side note: a serious accident in Philadelphia (2015) was blamed on a gay conductor, and rumors started that this was connected to “the radical homosexual agenda”. The conductor had been a gay activist, fighting for marriage equality. However, rumors it were, and no connection was proven whatsoever.
Folllowing the SCOTUS decision in 2015, Amtrak had a competition where you could win a trip on their “Starlight Honeymoon Train”, which was aimed at the LGBT community. Their website stated: “Amtrak continues its support of the LGBTQ community by celebrating marriage equality and pride all year ’round. We’ve teamed up with the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) to bring you the Honeymoon Train on the Coast Starlight. It features roomette service for two and will travel from Seattle to the San Francisco Bay Area. Don’t miss out on this prize package, which includes a complimentary one-night stay at the Seattle Sheraton.”
The website gayfamilytrips.com offers a section on Amtrak travels, with special Family Vacation packages. It is accompanied by a statement from Amtrak: “AMTRAK understands that diversity not only begins with respect for our customer, but for a social responsibility that extends outward. Our belief in corporate citizenship begins at the top and filters through our organization. When put in perspective, our communities define who we are as a company.” Also, the website visitgaypalmsprings.com advertises Amtrak packages, routes and schedules, such as The Amtrak San Joaquin® and the Amtrak Sunset Limited® train.
Amtrak is a sponsor of events like Capital Pride in Washington, and a "proud" member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.
OUT.com had a contest where you could win a trip for 4 via Amtrak to one of their 500 Destinations, in 46 states and Canada.