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This article was published 14/5/2012 (1865 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg hoteliers are missing out on a potential financial windfall by not aggressively pursuing "pink dollars," according to a consultant for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender market.
After conducting a recent survey of 50 hotels in Winnipeg, Rob Zelles, Edmonton-based owner of Blue Flames Ventures, said properties here are less gay-friendly than counterparts in Toronto and Vancouver.
Considering Pride Winnipeg, the biggest event on the LGBT calendar, takes place in less than three weeks and will bring millions of dollars to the city, there isn't much time for hotels, restaurants and other businesses to reorient themselves.
"They go after the (LGBT) market in cities like Toronto and Vancouver. They know the impact the market has. Gay is here to stay, it's not going anywhere. By not acknowledging it, they're missing out on huge opportunities (in Winnipeg)," he said, noting the LGBT market is worth more than $7 billion annually in Canada and $600 billion per year worldwide.
Zelles declined to name Winnipeg hotels in his study but said in general, there appears to be no universal policy in terms of LGBT events. For example, he could talk to one staff member at a hotel who knows the answers to all of his questions and then call back five minutes later and get a different employee who knows virtually nothing.
"The hotel is the first line of defence for somebody coming to visit. If (a staff member) says, 'Why are you calling me?' or 'Call tourism,' or 'I'm not gay,' that could turn potential visitors off," he said.
"They need to get rid of that mentality. It should be, 'We want your business; what do we need to do to get you to stay here?' That will set them apart from all the other hotels."
Jim Baker, president and CEO of the Manitoba Hotel Association, doesn't give much credence to Zelles' survey and believes Winnipeg is as gay-friendly as any other big city in Canada.
"The industry recognizes that the gay community is an ideal niche market to market to," he said.
It's not surprising some hotel staff members don't know when Pride takes place, as it doesn't have as much history as other events, such as the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the Fringe Festival, and hasn't had nearly the media exposure.
But that doesn't mean hoteliers shouldn't ensure their front-line staff have sufficient training to be able to answer basic questions for the LGBT community, Baker said.
Tourism Winnipeg has a page on its website for the LGBT traveller and a representative on LAMBDA, the LGBT business chamber. Cody Chomiak, Tourism Winnipeg's director of marketing, said it works with businesses on sensitivity training and promoting the city to the LGBT community.
"Being a gay person who grew up here, Winnipeg is a very gay-friendly city. Businesses in Winnipeg have been extremely well-prepared for the LGBT community and are aware to cater to that market," he said.
Tourism Winnipeg also has a manager who visits hotels and talks to front-line staff to ensure they're up to speed on a wide variety of events, both gay and straight, going on in the city.
"There are some hotels that are really great (with LGBT events) and there are some that could use some improvement," he said.
Knowledge of Pride lacking
According to a survey conducted by Blue Flames Ventures, Winnipeg hotels have some work to do in catering to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender market. It surveyed 50 hotels in the city and asked a variety of questions of people at the front desk or the concierge.
QUESTION YES NO
Do you know when the Festival du Voyager is? 41 9
Do you know when the Fringe Festival is? 29 21
Do you know when Winnipeg Pride is? 16 34
Is Winnipeg very gay-friendly? 33 17
Do you know where the gay bars are if there are any at all? 17 33