There's a segment of every population that likes to hunt and fish — you just have to know how to reach them.

That's the advice of Darrell Schuurman, co-founder of Travel Gay Canada and guest speaker at this week's Northern Ontario Tourism summit in Thunder Bay.

Schuurman said he tells outfitters if they want to attract gay and lesbian visitors to their business, first they need to spend some time at local Pride events.

“Start to build those relationships. What that's doing is showing that you're really invested in this market, and really connected to this market,” he said.

Schuurman noted that annual worldwide spending by lesbian and gay travellers amounts to over $8-billion.

A little education and staff training can also go a long way towards making LGBT visitors feel comfortable, he said.

“When ... there's two men or two ladies” checking into a hotel, it’s no longer appropriate to say “Oh, definitely you need two rooms.'"

Misconceptions exist

Reaching out to the LGBT community can also be as simple as showing an image of a same-sex couple on the outfitters website, he added.

Shuurman said he believes misconceptions exist about the LGBT market.

“Quite often we see images from large Prides, like Toronto Pride, and  so we have this preconceived notion of what this market is. So we quite often dismiss that as ‘they're not interested in hunting and fishing.' But this is our opportunity to showcase that there is a market out there."

Shuurman cautioned it will be about three to five years before the investment in marketing to the LGBT community starts to pay off. It takes time to build trust and show commitment, he said.

"Make sure your house is in order before serving the market. Make sure your staff are familiar with who this market is and how to actually be able to serve them in a welcoming and acceptable way," he advises the tourism industry.