Windsor-Essex courts gay, lesbian tourism market

Officials and business leaders from Windsor-Essex are courting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tourists.

Travel Gay Canada says LGBT tourism is a $73-billion market

David Lenz of Windsor Essex Pride is excited by the idea of Windsor courting the LGBT tourism market. (CBC News)

Officials and business leaders from Windsor-Essex are courting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) tourists.

Travel Gay Canada, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture have partnered to establish LGBT tourist destinations in the province. Windsor is one of them.

The three organizations say the LGBT group could bring a lot of money to the region. According to those luring the group to the area, they also tend to be "brand-loyal." That means if they come and have an enjoyable time, they tend to come back again and again.

"Windsor-Essex has so many wonderful experiences and attractions that appeal to the LGBT market," said Darell Schuurman, the executive director of Travel Gay Canada.

The trio made the announcement at Caesars Windsor, where they also provided sensitivity and diversity training to businesspersons, which was a requirement for endorsement by the organizations.

Windsor-Essex is also an area targeted by the non-profit organization Travel Gay Canada, because Toronto is hosting World Pride 2014.

The news excites David Lenz, president of Windsor-Essex Pride.

"It’s a huge step. Having all these partners involved will boost not just the LGBT tourism but tourism in general," Lenz said.

Lucrative travel market

According to Travel Gay Canada, the North American LGBT travel market spends more than $73 billion on travel each year.

Mark Baker owns Encore Productions of Windsor, a company specializing in historical bus tours, particularly focusing on Windsor's ties to prohibition. He was at the event Tuesday.

"We’re looking to expand markets for our product. We want to let the LGBT community know we exist here and that our tour would be of interest to their community," Baker said.

Lenz said it's very important for members of the LGBT community to feel welcome.

"We don’t want to send them to a place where they’re not comfortable or safe or [where] they're treated with disrespect. We want them welcomed, no matter who they are," Lenz said. "There have been numerous studies on that; if they’re treated the right way, they’ll definitely come back for more."

Lenz said Windsor-Essex is an ideal location for such tourists because it's a portal to the big U.S. market. He said there are huge pride groups in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.

Caesars doesn't specifically target a niche group of tourists, but knows the LGBT market exists.

"They’re coming already. What we want is more of it," Caesars director of resort and hotel Shelly Williams said. " It’s not just a weekend, it’s not just a month, it’s a lifelong commitment we’ve made to our community."