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Jeff Guaracino and Ed Salvato, here with a copy of Guaracino's book Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing, say P.E.I.'s tourism industry could benefit from marketing to gay and lesbian travelers. The two delivered the keynote presentation at the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.'s annual general meeting Friday.
P.E.I.'s tourism industry is missing out on a lot of money by not targeting gay and lesbian tourists.
That was the message by the keynote speakers at the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. annual general meeting Friday at the Rodd Royalty Inn.
Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation vice-president of communications Jeff Guaracino and gay travel consultant Ed Salvato talked about their experiences marketing gay travel and the benefits it could have for P.E.I.
Guaracino said P.E.I.’s tourism industry needs to do research and develop a long-term marketing plan to help attract gay and lesbian tourists to the province.
“You can’t just say if you build it they will come,” he said.
Throughout the presentation Guaracino drew on his experiences developing gay and lesbian tourism campaigns in Philadelphia, including the Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay campaign, which helped increase tourism numbers in the city.
The presentation listed some of the potential benefits of increased visits from gay and lesbian tourists, including helping P.E.I. steal travelers from other destinations, attracting new customers and spurring regional travel.
Salvato said gay and lesbian tourists can also have a greater economic impact than straight travelers.
“Gay and lesbian travelers spend more and they do more,” he said.
Same sex weddings and groups are a huge market and a survey of gay travelers showed 30 per cent expressed interest in a wedding on P.E.I., he said.
“That’s an easy peesy kind of market, in a sense. It’s easy to fill and you are doing it for heterosexuals.”
Guaracino said 77 per cent of gay travelers who visited P.E.I. said they would recommend the province to others, but 51 per cent reported feeling uncomfortable, which could affect not only gay and lesbian tourism, but also the number of visits from straight tourists.
“I see that as a big problem,” he said.
The survey also showed 95 per cent of gay and lesbian travelers didn’t know P.E.I. has a gay pride celebration and although not all tourists would come to the province for a gay pride celebration it’s an indicator the community is open to gays and lesbians, Guaracino said.
“It’s one of those road signs that say ‘I might be welcome there’.”
Salvato said news of hate crimes, like the incident in which a gay couple’s home was destroyed in Little Pond, need to be counterbalanced with a positive message about P.E.I. in order to show travelers the province is gay friendly.
“You can control your message. You can control what you talk about,” he said.
Guaracino said research has shown gay travelers also give a better return on advertising investment because they tend to spend more than straight travelers.
But research also shows gay travelers who are aware of advertising geared toward them spend more money and stay longer than gay travelers who didn’t know about targeted advertising, he said.
“It is significant. It is measurable and it is immediate,” Guracino said.