Getting gay hitched in Toronto is just
the beginning, say city leaders looking to expand their share of the
estimated $55 billion gay and lesbian tourism market.
Time was when Toronto's endearing
Church Wellesley Village used to suffice for gay tourists looking for
gay-friendly bars, restaurants and quaint antique shops. That was so
Clinton-era. Competition for today's sophisticated gay traveler is
downright cutthroat. And Canada's largest city
is ready to elbow its way into some of that action.
Since 2005, Toronto's visitor and
convention bureau has tripled its budget aimed at the gay dollar to
almost $500,000 this year, reports the Globe and Mail.
A quick flip through Out Traveler's
2008 Reader's Choice Awards, however, reveals Toronto still has much
ground to cover. Readers appear to favor Buenos Aires, Barcelona,
New York City and San Francisco best.
Still, Toronto's five-year-old gay
advisory panel for Tourism Toronto has closed some important deals of
In May, Toronto plays host to the
International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association convention.
Organizers expect the event to pull in 500 members to Toronto.
“Toronto is a very desirable city for
the community because of all the things it has to offer: culture, a
large local [gay] community and easy side trips to Niagara and
Ottawa,” John Tanzella, executive director of IGLTA told the
Globe and Mail.
“It is very appealing.”
Other gay events coming to town include
the International Gay Rodeo Association in October.
A week-long festival aimed at
attracting gay tourists to the Church Wellesley Village – Toronto's
gay neighborhood – is now in its third year. The festival of food
and films draws 55,000 people to the village on Halloween night.
“It has been hugely beneficial for
us,” says David Wootton, a Church Wellesley Village Business
Improvement Area coordinator. Tourism Toronto partnered with
community leaders in marketing the event in the U.S. and England.
And, as gay marriage in California is
put on ice, Toronto offers gay and lesbian couples a warm welcome.