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Ottawa hosts national Pride conference

Gay tourism and finances on the agenda

Pride organizers from across the country gathered in Ottawa from Mar 27 to Mar 30 as Capital Pride hosted Fierté Canada Pride’s fourth annual national conference.

The four-day symposium at the Arc Hotel provided Pride boards with an opportunity to network and attend educational seminars. A variety of workshops, presentations and events took place, with the collective goal of making Pride festivals profitable and ensuring they run smoothly.

“The conference put Ottawa on a national level,” says Capital Pride chair Marion Steele. “We really wanted to host this year to show people that we are professional and credible. I would say that the weekend went very well, we had a very good turn out from both coasts of Canada.”

Attracting festival-goers is always high up on the list of priorities for any Pride festival. Bruce McDonald of Travel Gay Canada — a Canadian gay tourism association — presented findings of a survey of gay Canadian travellers conducted via the web last year, the first of its kind. The results show that the gay travel market has been relatively ignored by Canada’s tourism-related businesses.

McDonald says Canadian tourism businesses wanted to know more about the size of the Canadian gay travel market — they weren’t satisfied with looking at the US numbers.

“We did the survey last year and now we have real numbers — Canadian numbers — so they really can’t dispute it and the industry sees that they can make money off of the gay market,” he says.

According to the results, the Canadian gay travel market is worth $9.4 billion annually. $5.4 billion is spent in Canada, $2.4 billion in the U.S. and $1.7 billion elsewhere. The estimated market of 1.8 million gay travellers spent on average $1,166 per trip last year; nearly twice as much as straight travellers, who are estimated to spend $627 per trip.

Steele says she took a lot away from the survey results and plans to implement strategies to bring more gay tourists to Ottawa.

“I was surprised at what Bruce uncovered regarding people travelling from within Canada,” says Steele. “I think we need to concentrate on travellers from within Canada and market to people within Canada. Usually marketing has been concentrated on getting travellers from the US. There’s a lot of sponsorship and publications that we can utilize in Western Canada.”

Conference attendees also received lessons on conflict resolution, post-Pride depression, and finance. Ross Chapman, Toronto Pride board member and InterPride treasurer headed a presentation on finance. He says embezzlement of Pride funds remains a concern.

“Prides are very trusting bodies of organizations and a number of Prides on the international scale have historically been embezzled from,” says Chapman. “I do this workshop as a methodology to help them prevent embezzlement. I’d rather them have the knowledge now to prevent it form happening in the future.”

Fierté Canada Pride was born out of InterPride, an international Pride association established more than two decades ago.