P.E.I. tourism operators will soon be able to take a course on how to be a gay-friendly business.

The P.E.I. Gay Tourism Association will be working with the Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island to offer gay-friendly sessions across the province.

"Sometimes, you know, if two male guests show up and somebody at the front desks says, 'Oh, you would like to have separate beds,' it's making assumptions that two people of the same sex travelling together are not a couple, that they're just friends," said Bill Kendrick, president of the Gay Tourism Association.

"So it's making sure that we can back up the claim that we are gay-welcoming."

Tourism operators will be taught how to attract gay tourists to their business and how to be sensitive to specific issues.

"It's about having the operators on P.E.I. not be surprised when they're catering to that market, what they're looking for. It's understanding what will please the customer," said Don Cudmore, executive director of TIAPEI.

Gay-friendly businesses can already be listed on Tourism P.E.I.'s website.

Tourism boost

"We'd like to see a lot more operators on the page because I'd really like to see that Prince Edward Island is seen as gay-friendly," said Brenda Gallant, Tourism PEI's director of marketing.

Vicki Francis prepares for her guests at the Cranford Inn, and says she already tries to make everyone feel at home.

"You can't assume when people walk in the door who they are and what they want," Francis said.

That's why she and her staff make sure they provide an open and welcome environment to all their guests, including their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ones.

"When you're taking reservations, you make sure you ask people — we have twins, double rooms. You give people the option of making decision without you putting them in an comfortable position of having to ask," she said.

The North American LGBT travel market is estimated to be worth more than $70 billion, and the Island tourism industry wants to cash in on that.

"The more customer service increases, the more people realize when they come here the experience they have takes it to the next level, then that in turn will bring more visitors," Gallant said.

LGBT travellers are a segment of the tourism market P.E.I.'s missing out on, according to Kendrick.

"They tend to spend more money. They tend to stay longer. They earn more money. They take more vacations than straight tourists," Kendrick said.

While the Gay Tourism Association wants to attract the gay tourism market, the province said it has no plans to focus on gay-specific media.

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