Yesterday’s Charlottetown Guardian carried a story about the
Tourism Association of PEI’s annual meeting. The keynote speaker was Jeff
Guaracino of the Greater Philadelphia Marketing and Tourism Association.
It’s great to read so much in The Guardian these past weeks
about PEI’s reaction to the firebomb attack against a gay couple in Little
Pond. Islanders truly seem horrified.
According to The Guardian, Guaracino told the room PEI would
do well to research and develop a long-term marketing plan to attract gay
tourists to the province. He pointed to a survey in which 77 percent of gay
travellers to PEI said they would recommend the province to others, but 51
percent reported feeling uncomfortable there. He told the crowd that was a
problem that needed solving, that it could affect not only gay and lesbian
tourism, but also the number of visits from straight tourists.
It’s a convincing argument, and it's essence is, "It's in
your best interests, economically and socially, to ensure gay people enjoy
Coincidentally, I visited both PEI and Philly earlier this
year. I had a great time, and I’ll tell you more about both destinations
another time. But my PEI experience is congruent with the survey Guaracino
describes. I loved the place and the people, but sexuality really is an awkward
subject for most in PEI. Socially, it’s just not something folks care to talk
about. I’m a single gay dude who lives in the gay village and works in the gay
press, so you can’t ask me more than one get-to-know-you question without my
sexuality coming up. It sits like an elephant in the room, but with some work I
found it reasonably easy to get them past it.
Of course, few people want to work on vacation, and there's still that matter of the firebomb and the two guys who lost their house and nearly their lives.