WinterPRIDE success helps B.C. reverse gay travel downturn

Early reports from Whistler’s WinterPRIDE gay ski week earlier this month show a significant attendance jump compared with last year.

Early reports from Whistler’s WinterPRIDE gay ski week earlier this month show a significant attendance jump compared with last year.

Organizers on February 22 estimated that about 3,000 people from 28 nations visited Whistler for the event between February 3 and 10. That compares with about 2,500 last year.

Most of the visitors are from the U.S. West Coast and western Canada, according to WinterPRIDE.

The event’s success is likely partly due to better snow conditions this year than it has for many years.

The success also comes as gay tourism insiders fear that Vancouver and B.C. are losing market share in the lucrative gay tourism market.

Vancouver’s gay newspaper Xtra! reported last month that Vancouver is now the third most popular Canadian destination for American gay tourists, down from being the top Canadian destination between 2006 and 2008.

The paper cited research from San Francisco-based gay travel research firm Community Marketing Inc., which said that the drop in visits to B.C. from gay Americans is outpacing the drop in tourists overall.

Whereas overall U.S. visitor counts to Vancouver have fallen about 10% since before the 2008 economic downturn, the drop in U.S. gay visitors to Vancouver has fallen about 27%, Xtra! reported.

Gay tourists, especially males, are particularly sought-after because, according to studies from Out Now Consulting and other research organizations, they tend to have more disposable income than straight people.

That means higher spending per travel day and a more reliable tourist subset during economic turbulence.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom

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