Toronto’s Tourism authority has announced a series of initiatives aimed at strengthening the Canadian city’s position as one of the top international destinations for high-value gay travellers – especially those in the U.S.

“The gay travel market is one of the fastest-growing segments and is a $55 billion industry. This represents a major opportunity for Toronto,” said David Whitaker, President and CEO of Tourism Toronto. “Toronto offers a great deal to gay visitors, who tend to travel more often, stay longer and spend more in a destination.”

Although Tourism Toronto has marketed to gay travellers in the past, this year it increased its investment by 50 per cent to $300,000 to reach this segment, focusing on four major U.S. cities – New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Tourism Toronto has also announced that Toronto has won the bid to host the 2009 Annual Convention of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).

Tourism Toronto has established a new Gay Marketing Advisory Group that includes more than a dozen local community leaders. The industry association is also helping hotels in the city and region gain accreditation as ‘gay-friendly’ establishments through Travel Gay Canada.

Tourism Toronto’s marketing campaign in the U.S. will include ads in gay restaurants, bars and local publications, as well as event sponsorships and promotional activities. “Our campaign goes beyond ads so that we are truly engaging our customers directly,” said Whitaker. “In all four cities we are working with prominent gay organisations to give Toronto a presence at high-profile events…”

A critical strategic element of the new campaign is that it markets the entire city and region to gay travellers, rather than simply promoting the gay village.

Recent research shows that U.S. gay travellers:

  • Travel more frequently – 98% have taken at least one overnight trip in the last twelve months, compared with 72% for heterosexual Americans.

  • Stay longer – They stayed a median of 15 nights in hotels last year, compared with an average of about three nights for all U.S. travellers.

  • Spend more – Gay men spend $800 on average per trip, compared to $540 by non-gay travellers.

  • Are more likely to hold passports – 71% of travellers who identify themselves as gay hold a valid passport, nearly three times the overall U.S. average of 24%.

  • Travel throughout the year – With an average household income of $85,000 and a median age of 44, this market tends to travel throughout the year, not just during peak seasons.

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