With tourism season fast approaching, operators from across the Island are getting a lesson in welcoming those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.
Many Islanders in the tourism industry pride themselves on welcoming visitors but the organization Travel Gay Canada say there’s a lot more some could be doing.
Anne Marie Shrouder, of Travel Gay Canada, spent Friday morning educating operators on ways to make their businesses more LGBT-friendly.
Often, said Shrouder, it’s the more subtle reactions that are problematic for tourists in the gay community.
“I’m checking in with my partner and we’re both female and we want one bed. And it’s like, ‘Oh, right.’ Little things like that — eyebrow [raising], whispering behind the counter, and it all undermines my sense of ‘I want to be here,’” she said.
Bill Kendrick, chair of the P.E.I. Gay Tourism Association, said that’s not the attitude you want when trying to boost tourism in the province.
Kendrick formed the association a few years ago and it now has about 30 businesses on board.
“We’re not seen as a gay welcoming destination because we’ve never promoted ourselves as such. It’s one thing to say, ‘Yes, we’re welcoming to everyone.’ It’s another thing to really be welcoming,” he said.
Kendrick said there’s more the province can do to make P.E.I. more welcoming, for instance making the Island’s visitor’s guide more diverse. Every couple in the guide is heterosexual.
“To get tourists to come here, you have to really educate everybody that you have to go that further step. That means making it comfortable so they’ll come back,” said Vicki Francis, co-owner of Charlottetown’s Cranford Inn.
The Cranford Inn is a member of the P.E.I. Gay Tourism Association, which promotes LGBT-friendly destinations on the Island.
Francis said there’s still work to do.
“You know if you have a wedding ring on, someone might say ‘Where’s your husband?’ But it may not be a husband, it may a partner, same sex spouse,” she said.
Shrouder said she is confident workshops like this are making a difference for the benefit of the gay community and the tourism industry.