booming business | OUTVisions for LGBT Professionals

booming business

same sex couples are spending big on travel

booming business
richard hutton

Same-sex couples are on the move – and they are spending money, lots of it

Travel and tourism is big business in Canada, injecting nearly $74 billion into the economy in 2010 according to the Canadian Tourism Commission and the LGBT community represents a healthy chunk of that number.

About $7 billion is spent on gay travel ¬or roughly 10 per cent of the $73.4 billion taken in by the tourism industry. Of that $7 billion, nearly 60 per cent [$4.2 billion] is spent in Canada.

“When we’ve surveyed travel habits, we found most of the trips are within Canada (just under 60 per cent),” Darrell Schuurman, president of Travel Gay Canada says. “Most trips are to destinations on the North American continent. It has helped make up for some of the lost business from the United States.”

And those LGBT travellers are spending money — and lots of it — Schuurman says.

“Nearly $1,100 is being spent per trip,” Schuurman says. “That’s compared to just under $600 from the straight community.”

Part of the reason, Schuurman says is the abundance of same-sex couples without children.

“It’s largely based on disposable income,” Schuurman says. “There is a lot of double-income, no kids couples,” Schuurman says.

The landscape, however, is changing as more and more, as same-sex couples are making the decision to adopt children.

“It’s one of the trends,” Schuurman says. “There is more of an emphasis being put on family travel.”

Some popular destinations in Canada include the big three — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — although other cities, including Halifax, Victoria and Whistler, B.C., are fast becoming hot spots. Stateside, Schuurman says, Las Vegas remains a popular destination as does New York. San Francisco is also in the mix.

New York has benefitted from a bit of a boost since the statewide legalization of gay marriage, Schuurman says.

“It really raised the profile a bit. People began to talk about it (attitudes toward gay marriage) again,” Schuurman says.

It was the same thing that happened in Canada, when in July 2005, the Civil Marriage Act was passed, although same-sex couples had been tying the knot since 2003 after court decisions starting in Ontario in July of that year.

“It set Canada apart as a country that helps in terms of LGBT human rights,” Schuurman says, adding that the move that has been a help to the tourism sector.

“There was a huge influx from a tourism standpoint,” Schuurman says. “People began to realize, we can also go to Canada. They realize Canada is a safe place to go.”

And although the $7 billion generated in the LGBT tourism sector sounds like a lot of money, it is still just a sliver of the overall economic pie. And despite being a “niche market,” a term Schuurman doesn’t particularly care for, he says the segment is being broken down further, providing new marketing opportunities.

“We’re now seeing much more targeted marketing,” he says. “To seniors, families and young people.”

Travel Gay Canada is a tourism industry association for the LGBT community. The goal is the organization is to provide products and services as well as provide information on travel opportunities across Canada. Membership is open to gay-friendly tourism businesses who wish to offer services to the LGBT traveller. It is a program of the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Travel Gay Canada works with several corporate partners including Tourism Toronto, Tourism Hamilton and Via Rail among others. OutVisions Magazine is among the group’s media partners.

It also provides a listing of events across Canada geared to the LGBT community.

“We promote opportunities that drive business to our members,” Schuurman says. “We provide tools that that businesses can use.”

The group will be hosting its annual travel conference in Montreal in November 17 and 18. The event is an opportunity for businesses to come together under one roof to explore how they can tap into the LGBT market.

“We want to help business get a better understanding,” Schuurman says.

For more information on Travel Gay Canada, visit

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