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World Pride 2014: The importance of gay and lesbian tourisism in Toronto

World Pride 2014 has painted Toronto in rainbow colours this week. I asked Darrell Schuurman, co-founder of Travel Gay Canada, about the importance of gay and lesbian tourism.

Is it significant that Toronto is hosting World Pride 2014?

Pride is a celebration of LGBT individuals, recognizing everything we have gone through to get where we are. Having this global celebration come to Canada for its North American debut raises our profile and shows the world how inviting and open this country is to LGBT travellers. It’s also important to note that despite all of our progress, such as the legalization of same-sex marriage, there is still work that needs to be done. The World Pride celebration will include a human rights conference that is going to showcase the need to continue the dialogue on international gay rights and human rights around the world.

What about the economic benefit?

World Pride will be one of the biggest festivals in Toronto this year. Research shows that the Canadian LGBT market in general is worth $8.5 billion; 56 per cent of that money is spent on travel within Canada. Gay and lesbian travellers have the interest in and ability to travel. The key for businesses is to remember it’s not just about flying a rainbow flag. Do your homework first and gain an understanding of this market’s needs and expectations.

What are some of those expectations?

You need to make a commitment to the community. Businesses need to get involved on a local level and support gay and lesbian causes and organizations. Hotels need to show that their staff has undergone diversity and sensitivity training; the concierge, for example, should be able to tell a gay traveller where there are gay restaurants and bars and what LGBT events are going on in the destination. In many ways the needs of an LGBT traveller mirror those of a mainstream traveller. They want to enjoy all of the same attractions and activities and feel safe doing it.

How would you know if a hotel has put their staff through training?

Look on their websites for endorsements or affiliations from organizations like Travel Gay Canada or the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. To be part of those organizations, hotels have to meet criteria on ethical business practices and have front-line staff participate in diversity and sensitivity training.

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