All-inclusive Canada

Canada is proud of its LGBTQ+ community and regularly comes top of reports listing the world’s gay-friendly destinations, says Rupert Parker

Why sell it?

In 2021, Canada topped Spartacus magazine’s Gay Travel Index, with the outlet naming it as the world’s top gay-friendly destination. What’s more, the UNWTO Global Report on LGBTQ+ Tourism found that 86% of Canadian millennial-aged respondents believe homosexuality should be “accepted”.

Canada represents a major opportunity for LGBTQ+ travellers, who can plan holidays reassured that they will feel comfortable touring a country that has long been inclusive, open and liberal.

It is also an ideal destination for a gay or lesbian honeymoon as Canada was one of the first countries to legalise same-sex marriage.

LGBTQ+ travellers will feel particularly welcome in the larger cities where there are gay villages, lively gay-orientated nightlife options and many community associations and support groups.
In addition, from Halifax to Whitehorse there is a lively drag scene across Canada.

For example, Calgary is home to the Fake Mustache Drag King Troupe, which claims the title of Canada’s longest-running drag troupe. The troupe’s shows feature a mix of performers, including ones with non-binary personas like drag monarchs

Across the calendar there are numerous LGBTQ+ events, large and small, such as Toronto Pride in June and Fierté Montréal Pride Festival in August, as well as the Whistler Ski Festival in January.

Scott Tyrer, Trading Director at Chillimix, com, one of the UK’s largest LGBTQ+ tour operators, commented: “Canada is well known for being friendly and welcoming to all visitors, and this hospitality extends to the LGBTQ+ community. Canada is one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world and a must-visit for all LGBTQ+ travellers.

He added: “Toronto and Vancouver are our two top destinations in Canada. Our customers love Canada due to its inclusion, great spirit, and incredible LGBTQ+ nightlife. However, Canada also offers an abundance of experiences, incredible culture, beautiful landscapes, and stunning cities.

What to sell

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Booking.com’s recent research revealed that 65% of UK LGBTQ+ travellers are more likely to seek out a destination that celebrates its local LGBTQ+ community and history. Echoing Canada’s all-inclusive ethos, every city has a gay quarter.

Toronto is home to the largest LGBTQ+ community in the country and the biggest draw is the famous Church Wellesley Gay Village, with its epic nightlife, inclusive community centre, and magnificent restaurants. One of the only cities in the world to have multiple gay districts, there’s the edgier Queer West Village, fuelled by happening restaurants and hipster bars.

Also there’s Old Cabbagetown, which is another up-and-coming ‘gaybourhood’.

Vancouver has two colourful gay villages: Davie Village is home to several gay bars, clubs, restaurants and gay shops, while Commercial Drive (The Drive) is a draw card for the city’s lesbian community.

Montréal has one of the largest gay villages in the world and the annual Fierté Montreal Pride Festival is one of the country’s most colourful.

Most of the festivities happen in the Gay Village and Rue Sainte-Catherine is transformed into a walking promenade during the summer months.

The capital, Ottawa, also has a Gay Village: a six-by-two block section of Bank is already home to multiple established and newly blossoming LGBT+ friendly bars and hotels, many of which are gay owned.

When to sell

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Each year, Canada’s LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride in all the major cities and towns, from coast to coast.

This is an occasion for celebrations based on diversity and inclusion. Check out the calendar to visit a destination during Pride: Toronto late June, Montréal August, Vancouver August and Ottawa in February.

Leslie Clements of Emsworth Travel found herself in Toronto during Pride and says: “It was a great time to visit. We didn’t know it was on until we arrived at the hotel and saw an array of people dressed in the most flamboyant outfits. The colours and styles were amazing.

“There were events on every corner, and a main area with stalls, music and dancing.

“Sunday was the main parade when over two million people enjoy the colourful costumes and music of the floats.”

Gay Ski Weeks are also well established. The Whistler Pride and Ski Festival, an annual gay and lesbian ski weekend, is held in Whistler in January, in Tremblant in February and Jasper in April.

How to sell it

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Stress the safety aspect and Canada’s general inclusiveness for LGBTQ+ visitors, and the range of districts, bars, festivals and events that cater specifically to this market. Point out that Vancouver, Toronto, and Montréal are some of the world’s most LGBTQ+-friendly cities.

Suggest taking in the urban centres of Ontario and Québec is by taking an eight-day fly-drive from Toronto. This takes in Niagara Falls and Ottawa before crossing into Québec, following the St Lawrence River to Québec City and then to Montréal.

Alternatively, recommend touring the country by rail. Via Rail’s The Canadian trio sees the train travel from Toronto to Vancouver, via Winnipeg, while the Rocky Mountaineer offers several routes into the Rockies from Vancouver.

Book it with…Out of office

LGBTQ+ specialists Out of Office offer a nine-day Whales, Bears and Vancouver Island itinerary which includes a visit to Tofino for wildlife spotting, a stay at a wilderness lodge and time exploring Vancouver. The trip is priced from £1,395pp.

outofoffice.com