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.
A recently released report from Travel Gay Canada indicates the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender) tourism market in Canada represents almost $7 Billion in annual spending in 2011. The report identifies the market as 2 million gay travellers with Prince Edward Island attracting only 2% of that market compared to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick who get 6%. Our neighbouring provinces generate 3 times the revenue from the gay travel market than we do.
Significantly though, LGBT travellers stay longer when they visit PEI than either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick with 60% staying for more than five days. So those gay tourists who come to the Island clearly find their vacation requirements are being met.
So while we have what the market is interested in, the challenge we face is finding a way to let the market know that and get them to decide to come to the Island for a holiday. The Travel Gay Canada report shows that 86% of gay travellers use LGBT magazines and travel guides as sources of information when deciding where to spend their vacations. They also use traditional online travel information sites but are clearly influenced by marketing directed specifically to them. Being visible in LGBT publications and travel sites sends a clear message of welcome that many gay travellers respond to.
The PEI Gay Tourism Association is a group of operators who have come together to explore ways to increase the number of LGBT travellers coming to the Island. The PEIGTA is developing a marketing strategy aimed at raising Prince Edward Island’s profile within the gay tourism market. Based on the Travel Gay Canada study, the most cited reasons by gay travellers for choosing a destination are rest/relaxation, shopping (local products) and safety. A perfect fit with the Gentle Island of Rejuvenation marketing strategy already in place. We just need to get that message in the right places.
If you see the potential of this market and you’re interested in participating in efforts to increase the number of LGBT travellers coming to PEI, please visit our website (www.gaytourismpei.ca). Information on membership is on the site. We currently have accommodations, restaurants, tour operators and marriage commissioners involved with the Association.
Read the article recently published in the Edmonton Journal here
By Meghan Mulally – The Guardian
The Tourism Industry Association and Tourism P.E.I. say they have been working on the next steps in making the Island a gay-friendly tourism destination.
Ed Salvato and Jeff Guarcino inspired the creation of the P.E.I. Gay Tourism Association after their successful presentation as the keynote speakers at TIAPEI’s annual general meeting last fall.
Judy Pye, owner of the Shipwright Inn in Charlottetown, spoke on behalf of the association and said Salvato and Guarcino really set the stage for P.E.I.
“We’re really building on their momentum as positioning P.E.I. as a gay tourism destination.”
Pye said the Island is missing out on a significant lucrative market.
“The facts are clear. New markets mean new customers. The potential benefits of this would include stealing travellers from other destinations and bringing a new kind of customer to the Island.”
Gay travellers also have a greater economic impact than straight travellers, said Pye.
“One gay or lesbian couple is the equivalent of three straight couples in terms of spending when they travel.”
Having been inspired by what the association heard, it knew it was time for P.E.I. to take centre stage, said Pye.
The P.E.I. Gay Tourism Association began an investigation into official tourism website across the world to see how gay-friendly they were.
“Sadly, the results were intriguing but also disappointing,” said Pye. “With the exception of Germany and the Netherlands, all the websites failed miserably. The only good news was that P.E.I. wasn’t alone out there.”
After seeing those results, the association took some steps in the right direction, in order to position P.E.I. as a gay tourism destination, including a new logo designed by Tony Diodati, the creation of an advertisement to appear on the visitors guide and ongoing work to the official website.
“We’re working on changing attitude from negative and resistant to one of appreciation and mutual respect,” said Pye.
To help with that attitude adjustment, the association is offering diversity training which goes along with membership in the group.
“We’ve gone a long way in a short amount of time but we still have a long way to go,” said Pye.
“We can move forward, we will move forward and we will establish P.E.I. as a gay-friendly destination.”