News / Calgary

Jasper embracing gay-friendly tourism

In a town known more for its blue-collar citizens and churches than its drag shows, Lynn Wannop recalls the fight getting the Jasper Pride Festival off the ground.

The owner of Coco’s Café remembers pounding the pavement in an effort to sell the festival to businesses in the tiny resort town west of Edmonton.

“Even if it’s something that you don’t personally agree with, look at it this way, you’re dealing with a group of people who — if they feel safe travelling here — they will be loyal and come back here again and again and again,” Wannop recalled telling them.

That was five years ago.

“A few years ago, Coco’s Cafe had the only rainbow sticker in town and now, you walk around and there’s tons of them. It’s so cool. It’s getting bigger and better and it’s not going anywhere,” — Lynn Wannop, one of the original organizers of the Jasper Pride Festival

Nowadays, the windfall of more than 500 people coming to Jasper to celebrate is definitely being felt at Whistlers Inn, one of the town’s hotels.

“Over the last five years, we’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of people checking into our hotel specifically for pride. That then transfers into things like more restaurant visits and drinks at the hotel’s bar.” said General Manager Vanessa Hatto-Hugie.

The hotel, which has been a member of The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association for three years, is sold out this weekend for the festival.

Jasper’s small businesses aren’t the only ones benefitting from the burgeoning festival. Through traditional advertisements in gay-friendly publications, as well as their social media channels, Fairmont’s Jasper Park Lodge has begun to focus a segment of their marketing exclusively on LGTBQ weddings.

This year, the hotel is also one of the festival’s sponsors. The hotel’s director of sales and marketing Uwe Walter sees the Jasper Park Lodge as having an important role in the industry.

“We’ve definitely seen increase in same-sex weddings and we haven’t run into any resistance, if anything it’s the complete opposite.” Said Walter, who is also the festival’s co-chair. “The support within the community of Jasper has been overwhelmingly positive.”

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