Resorts of Ontario celebrates diversity

Left to right, Kristie Anderson, Michelle Duff and Mary McIsaac at the Resorts of Ontario conference.

Left to right, Kristie Anderson, Michelle Duff and Mary McIsaac at the Resorts of Ontario conference.

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By Don Douloff

ORILLIA, ON—Resorts of Ontario’s spring conference, which unfolded March 31-April 1 at Fern Resort and Casino Rama, near Orillia, ON, took the theme Diverse by Nature! Get Ready for New Business and outlined how to adapt to new, non-traditional demographic groups in a changing marketplace.

Annemarie Shrouder

Annemarie Shrouder

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One morning session devoted itself to a three-hour Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Diversity Training Workshop. Hosted by Annemarie Shrouder (at right), of Travel Gay Canada, the spirited and highly interactive session helped resorts learn about LGBT diversity and how to effectively understand, value and serve LGBT employees and customers.

Pride and Pan Am

With Toronto hosting this summer’s World Pride event June 20-29 and also hosting the Pan Am Games July 10-26, 2015, the workshop couldn’t have been more timely.

Historically, the LGBT travel market has remained relatively untapped by many of Canada’s destinations and tourism-related businesses and therefore represents a lucrative opportunity. Furthermore, as more and more destinations outside Canada start to actively target this demographic, Canadian businesses and destinations need to act now, to ensure they capture and maintain market share.

The LGBT market is a sizeable and lucrative one. Although the actual size of the population that identifies as LGBT is unknown, it is estimated that in North America, it’s close to 30 million people, representing 6 to 8 per cent of the total population. The total spent by the LGBT North American consumer market is estimated at $750 billion, with tourism spending estimated at more than $70 billion.

Research shows that the Canadian LGBT travel market is worth $7 billion annually and Canadian LGBT travellers, on average, spent $3,400 on travel in the 12 months covering October, 2009 to October, 2010.

In addition, 58 per cent of LGBT travellers take trips that last four nights or longer and on average, LGBT travellers stayed 8.4 nights in paid accommodation. For American LGBT travellers, Canada is the top international destination, with Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto the top three cities.

Throughout, the workshop raised key points about the business ramifications for resorts looking to woo the LGBT market. For example, depending on how aggressively properties court the LGBT market, and the message they send about how proactive they are towards that segment, they could, potentially, turn off other markets who aren’t inclusive towards all groups.

In addition, when resorts announce their inclusion of the LGBT market, they also announce their inclusiveness for all other specialized groups. Similarly, how a property positions itself regarding the LGBT market sends a message about how safe that community will feel at that property and indicates the suitability of the property for the non-LGBT community.

How safe am I going to be?

Finally, it was pointed out that although resorts can’t control how other guests will treat LGBT guests, properties can control how they react to any adverse experiences their LGBT guests encounter—a crucial point, since a Travel Gay Canada survey revealed that one of the top ten travel concerns of the LGBT market is, “how safe am I going to be?”

Day One of the conference, which took place at Casino Rama’s conference centre, featured educational round tables hosted by trade show exhibitors.

Abell Pest Control hosted an informative round table discussing resorts’ legal obligations regarding bed bugs.

In a nutshell: Unless your property is making a concerted effort to monitor and control these blood-feeding nasties, it is liable for any bed bug incidents affecting guests.

Following the roundtable sessions was the trade show featuring 37 suppliers exhibiting their goods and services.

That evening, Fern Resort hosted a late-afternoon reception in its intimate Bertyl’s lobby and bar, after which everyone moved to the Heritage dining room for a multi-course dinner.

During dinner, Resorts of Ontario handed out awards to board members of its Preferred Supplier Division.

Trevor Walker, of R&F Construction, received a plaque honouring him as outgoing president and Doug Rolling, of Abell Pest Control, received a gavel recognizing him as incoming 2014 president.

Rolling was elected at the Preferred Supplier annual general meeting held earlier that day on the tradeshow floor.

Also at dinner, Adrian Boem, of Barrie Equipment Sales, received a plaque as outgoing Preferred Supplier board chair.