Travel
2 min

New gay section in PEI tourist guide disappoints

'Tiny reference' a step forward, but too small

Prince Edward Island inn operators say the addition of a gay section to the province’s official tourist guide is too small and long overdue.

On page 50 of the Visitor’s Guide for 2008, under the heading GBLT Travellers, a brief paragraph states that “a number of Prince Edward Island accommodations are GBLT friendly.” The reader is then directed to visit Purpleroofs.com for the listing of these properties. At the bottom of the page is a small picture of two men having lunch on a restaurant patio.

Tourism PEI says the addition shows a recognition of the power of the pink dollar.

“Marketers understand the impact of the gay and lesbian market and that it is very lucrative,” says Julie Whitlock, the communications officer with Tourism PEI.

While the small addition seems like progress in welcoming queer tourists to the “Gentle Island”, some Islanders are lukewarm in their response to the news.

Jim Culbert, the owner of the Rainbow Lodge and the operator of www.gaypei.com, says he has been lobbying the government for years to indicate gay-owned and gay-friendly accommodations in the guide. He views the inclusion as a step forward, but a very timid one. And why, he wonders, list “an American website [Purple Roofs] when we have ARBA — the Atlantic Rainbow Business Association.

Bill and Mary Kendrick, owners of Briarcliff Inn in Bedeque and members of PFLAG Canada-PEI, attribute the new gay section in the guide to the change from a Conservative to a Liberal government.

“[We’re] disappointed that a tiny reference buried in the Visitor’s Guide is the extent to which the current government is prepared to go, however, it’s a start,” they say.

Other innkeepers welcome the gay travellers section as being a sound business move for the Island and overdue recognition of the importance of the queer tourist and consumer.

“We believe that PEI has a huge amount to offer the [gay] market and up until now has been a well-kept secret,” say Judy and Trevor Pye of Shipwright Inn. “However, the Island appears to be registering on the radar for gay travellers — helped by positive messages in magazines such as Out in Canada and also OUTtv, who recently covered stories on the Island.”

The case eight years ago of a gay couple from Quebec who were refused accommodation tarnished PEI’s reputation for hospitality and perhaps demonstrated the need to reach out to the queer community. One inn, Dalvay By The Sea, now has a wedding page that lists same-sex weddings as “legal and welcome in Canada and at Dalvay.”

“This is a small place; friendly and welcoming,” says the inn’s events coordinator, Michelle Thompson.

Let’s make that gay-friendliness a little more obvious, says Culbert — owner of the Rainbow Lodge. He hopes that future editions of the guide will use symbols for gay-friendly businesses and that they will be encouraged to advertise in the guide.