#43: Interview with LGBT travel & tourism expert, Colin Sines [Podcast] - Jenn T. Grace—Book Publisher, Speaker, and Author Skip to the content

#43: Interview with LGBT travel & tourism expert, Colin Sines [Podcast]


EP. 43

Today’s episode was so much fun. I had a chance to sit down and speak with Colin Sines who wears many hats, all of which come back to LGBT marketing specifically in the area of travel and tourism. Colin and I met last year at the Travel Gay Canada Conference, which is coming up at the end of this month on October 23 and 24. More details on the conference here. It is very clear that he is an expert in all things LGBT marketing and the go-to person in Canada for those seeking these niche opportunities. He shares very personal insights of how he began in this field and also shares wonderful advice on how to get yourself started on this path. If you like what you hear, please leave a comment or share with a friend.

Here are some links shared in today’s episode:

Listen to the episode by clicking the play button below!

Would you prefer to read the transcript than listen to the episode? No problem! Read the transcript below!

AUDIO TITLE:  Episode #43 – LGBT Travel and Tourism Expert Colin Sines

Jenn T Grace:

You are listening to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast, Episode 43.

Intro:

Welcome to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast where you’ll learn how to do business with and market to the LGBT community in an authentic and transparent way. We’re talking about the $790 billion lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. We’ll help you grow your business, gain market share and impact your bottom line. And now your host – she’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven and an advocate for the LGBT business community. Jenn, with two N’s, T. Grace.

Jenn T. Grace:

Hello and welcome to episode number 43 of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. I am your host, Jenn T. Grace. And today’s episode is going to be an interview, and that interview is with Colin Sines who is the President of Travel Gay Canada. He is also the founder, I believe, and publisher of Out Visions which is a magazine, and he’ll give you some information about both of those organizations as we go through the interview itself today. However, I do want to mention that Colin is the absolute expert on LGBT marketing, especially as it relates to travel and tourism. So it was a complete pleasure to have been able to have this conversation with Colin and record it for the benefit of you, my loyal listener.

So I met Colin last year at the Travel Gay Canada conference which was last October. And the conference itself was fantastic and I had the pleasure of presenting, and it’s actually- for those of you who have read my book, it’s actually where I came up with the concept of the Seven Deadly Sins, which I’ve now renamed to the Seven Mistakes Preventing You from Selling to the $830 Billion LGBT Market. So the Seven Deadly Sins were really debuted from a presentation that I was doing for them last year. It was something that I was kind of working on, but it was really the first time that I kind of threw them out in that particular order and format, and I got some really great feedback from a lot of those who were in that session. So I certainly kept on moving along in the direction of honing in on those Seven Deadly Sins, and now that is actually comprising the second half of my new book. So I just wanted to point that out because I think it’s pretty cool. This year, unfortunately, I am not able to be in attendance at the conference. October and November and a little bit of December actually seem to be really, really busy, heavy conference times. I don’t know- maybe it’s just because Spring and Fall tend to be really heavy times when people have conference, but I had to make the choice between two different event, and instead of being in Canada I will actually be in Kansas City in October; I will be speaking at the Mid America LGBT Chamber of Commerce Business Equality Conference. So that is coming up- actually it’s next week which seems a little bit crazy now that I’m thinking about it. But it’s coming up and I am doing a presentation on all things LGBT marketing and communications as I typically do. So I’m really excited about attending that, I have never been to Kansas City before so this will be a first and it will be pretty exciting. And I also will likely be doing a presentation in conjunction with my good friends at the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, helping them with a presentation on supplier diversity. So that is a topic I have not talked about as of late on the podcast, but I certainly have past episodes that talk about it and I have plenty of information on the blog if you are interested in what exactly supplier diversity is.

So anywho, let’s see. So that was two announcements, one- I guess one more announcement that I just want to share, is that the last time I hit record on the good old podcast for episode number 42, I was sharing with you that I was about to set out on my first double digit run, I just want to let you know that now that you can hear my voice, you realize now that I did indeed survive that run. I ended up doing just about ten and a half miles that day, so I’m quite pleased and the half marathon is taking down- I think we’re only six weeks out from it. So it’s starting to be crunch time, so it’s a little bit scary but at the same time you have been following me on this journey since the day I decided to do it. So as always I just wanted to keep you up to date on that.
So I guess maybe there’s one more thing I want to mention. I have decided to throw in a last minute October webinar. I was skipping October but I just had a webinar a couple of weeks ago in September, and it was absolutely amazing. Like seriously an amazing webinar. I had a ton of people on it, and I just had so many people who are really passionate, everybody was sending me an email- I actually have like seven of them I still haven’t responded to, even now two weeks later, but basically saying, ‘This was so great, how can I get more information, can you answer this questions, that question?’ et cetera. So I am really, really pleased that everybody just took so well to the information that I was sharing. So I wanted to throw in an October one at the last minute for those of you who might be interested in attending. So as always, head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/webinars and you can register there.

Alright, so I don’t want to talk too much today, I would rather get right into this interview because we just dive right into the heart of LGBT marketing, we talk about travel and tourism, and Colin shares a really personal story for how he ended up in this particular niche area of LGBT marketing; and it’s very personal and as he was telling it I was thinking, ‘This is such an amazing story and I’m so, so pleased that my listeners get to hear-‘ especially those of you who are allies to the community, or folks who are LGBT but who are maybe thirty and younger. Because this really- he really encapsulates some of the past struggles that the older generation of LGBT people have unfortunately had to face. And instead of using that as something negative, he used that as his inspiration to do what he’s doing today. So his story is absolutely amazing and I’m just so pleased to bring it to you. So without further ado, let’s dive into our interview today with Colin Sines of Travel Gay Canada.

If you could just tell the audience a little bit more about yourself and what your story looked like, and what your path looked like that led you to where you are today as the President of Travel Gay Canada, among many, many other titles you seem to have.

Colin Sines:

Well it’s actually, it’s a long story. I was born in London, England, I was engaged at seventeen, married at nineteen and my first son was born when I was 21. And I moved to Canada in 1967. So going back to those times, I mean at seventeen I didn’t know who the hell I was at that point, right? And so it was the immigration to western Canada that one tends to grow up and I had responsibility because I had two sons, and as I got into my mid-twenties and so on, then I realized that I am gay. So it was a bit traumatic at that time because you know, we’re going back to the seventies, right? So it was a challenge but we made through it and my ex-wife was understanding and it was very amicable, and my two sons love me and so we progressed from there. I was in television advertising in the UK, it had just started, and I was based in London but the TV station I worked for was actually up north. I became the youngest person to hold a management position, I was only 22, in the traffic control division and that was where all the commercials- the advertising commercials would come in and then we’d allocate them to programming and all that kind of stuff. And then when I got to Canada, of course I went to western Canada and there was nothing there at that point in advertising, it was all done back in Toronto or Montreal. And I loved Vancouver when I arrived and so I eventually got a job as an elevator operator at hotel; one of the biggest hotels in Vancouver. And that started my 47 hotel career; mostly in sales and marketing but predominantly marketing. That’s how it all came about and as we progress through this conversation, the LGBT marketing and Travel Gay Canada, and those components will actually come into the conversation. But that was how I got to here.

Jenn T. Grace:

Wow, and you know when you were talking, just saying how you started off in TV, advertising was just kind of coming about in the UK, I can only imagine what your perspective is from those times to present day, and how drastically things have changed just in the timespan of your career.

Colin Sines:

Oh, it’s absolutely amazing. It is a totally, totally different world. My partner of 33 years who died in 2006- and it was actually one of this- his death was one of the instrumental things that made me decide to really do something about the LGBT and being gay. I’ve never sort of come out and said, ‘Hey I’m gay,’ but if anybody had asked me I would certainly say, ‘Yes.’ But my 33 years with James was through a whole period of we couldn’t be recognized as a couple, I couldn’t go to his business functions, he couldn’t come to my business functions, we always had to make sure we had two bedrooms- one was his, one was mine. You know and when he died I sat and thought- we couldn’t have any photographs around the house of both of us. And so the day he died I just sat back and thought, ‘There’s something wrong here. There’s something wrong here.’ And what happened was he didn’t want flowers, he didn’t want any of that, he just wanted to be cremated and I thought, ‘I mean I feel like I have to do something, I can’t just ignore that.’ So he died in early May and I waited until the weather got better so it was sort of early July. He was a gardener, we had a beautiful garden, so I decided to have a celebration of his life in his garden. And so there were about fifty people there including my vice president that I had at the time, and the president and CEO of the company, and I went to the dining room because we had photographs of his parents and my parents, and I took all those photographs down and re-put photographs up of him and I. One of him, one of me, one of the two of us together, and I put them in the dining room where the food was going to be served. And as I was doing his celebration speech, you know I said, ‘It was a long, long relationship and we had some absolutely amazing times and that’s all I’m going to focus on.’ My niece who had flown in from the UK was sitting next to my VP and my VP said, ‘I had no idea,’ and my niece said to her, ‘Does it make a difference?’ And she said, ‘Absolutely not.’ And so I guess that was the turning point where the whole marketing and being involved in the LGBT community really started. And in fact the president came up to me and said, ‘Colin, I think we-‘ I was the Director of Marketing for this luxury hotel group in Niagara, and he said to me, ‘Colin, this is a market we need to go after. So I’m giving you a budget to develop the market for us.’ And so I said, ‘Okay.’ So through that then I got Niagara tourism, at that time was starting to dabble in the market. And so I was a staunch supporter of that being the largest employer in Niagara for these luxury properties. And so I was kind of pushing that further and that’s how I met Daryl Sherman who was the co-founder of Travel Gay Canada; that’s when he asked me to go and sit on the board. And so through that process is how I sort of started to work with the local community and work with developing the LGBT market, and understanding the LGBT market.

Jenn T. Grace:

Wow. That is such a powerful coming out story in a way that really just pretty much redefined your career and the path that you were on, while you were still doing the same type of work in advertising and marketing; it certainly pushed you into a completely new direction which I think is really, really amazing. I love hearing when someone has just a really powerful ‘why’ the community is important to them and why this matters. I feel like just your story through your partners is such an incredibly powerful ‘why’ that I don’t think a lot of listeners would probably think about. You know I think a lot of my audience are straight allies who have good intentions and want to reach the community in a really effective and positive way; but they don’t fully understand the type of history and past that so many people come from, and I think yours is a really, really good example of that.

Colin Sines:

Yeah and I think also Canada is a leader actually when it comes to diversity and acceptance; and we certainly still have areas of disbelief I guess is the word. But on the whole, I mean we’ve been leaders and I think that is encouraging to the LGBT community in Canada, and around the world. I mean we get a lot of people that come here to get married because they find it safe, it’s more relaxing, it’s easier and it’s more understandable. So I’m lucky being in a country that was a leader and being in Ontario which was the first providence to legalize same-sex marriage. So I think when you get that kind of support from your country, your province, your city, it makes it more- it’s not so much easier, but I think it makes the road or the path that you take being involved in the community, is much more gratifying and much more easier I think to talk to the community, I mean the mainstream community. And you know because I’ve been so involved also in tourism as a whole, I’m very well known within the Niagara, Toronto and Canadian markets for being involved in tourism for so many years, and being a strong supporter of creating not just Niagara Falls, but Niagara as a region. And through that I’m co-founder of Niagara Tourism Network which is an organization that’s based on grassroots tourism organizations, and these are the guys that actually make tourism tick. It’s not the big guys, it’s small wineries, it’s small tour operators, it’s the attractions, it’s the grassroots level of tourism which make any tourism destination tick. And so through that, I have been able to integrate the LGBT discussion within that tourism market. And so, I mean the whole world now knows that I’m gay and any destination or business in the Niagara region, it seems to be that if somebody says, ‘Oh I really would like to market to the LGBT market,’ everybody says, ‘The only place you need to go is you need to go and talk to Colin Sines. He’s the only person that can teach you and show you on how to do it,’ right? So when I took over as President of Travel Gay Canada, we actually had two members in Niagara. Last count was that we now have 42. And I think it’s because of the integration that I have been bringing the LGBT market- travel market- into the mainstream of tourism as a whole. And I did things like Mr. Gay World from Canada- from New Zealand, and Mr. Gay Canada from Vancouver were coming to World Pride which was in Toronto this year. And I found out they were coming and I knew the person that was organizing their schedule and I kept calling him and said, ‘Hey, can I get these guys to Niagara for three days and three nights?’ And Dean said, ‘Absolutely, yeah.’ So I put the most amazing experience together for them. I just went out to my partners within the industry and said, ‘This is what the opportunity we have,’ and they all came out and said, ‘Absolute yes. Yes, count me in, count me in, count me in.’ And so they had this three day amazing experience that neither of them had ever been to Niagara before, and so they saw the Falls from a helicopter, they flew over the helicopter and the mobile. Campaign that they did was as they were approaching the helicopter they took a shot of the helicopter, then while they were on the slide they took the shots of Niagara Falls. So we did that, we did some wineries, we did kayaking on the Niagara River, and all of those things were actually mobiled out. And so three days they were here. At the end of three days we had 4.5 million followers on Twitter, and we have 560,000 Facebook likes and so on, and then we had 5,000 Instagram views. That literally put Niagara on the LGBT desire destination map. It was amazing.

Jenn T. Grace:

Absolutely. That is awesome. Those are some real results, wow.

Colin Sines:

Yeah, they are, they’re absolutely amazing. Because it blew the partners, and what it did is it really solidified what I had been telling them for two years; that the market is loyal, it has the ability, it has the know-how on how to reach the LGBT consumer. And the LGBT market is a niche market, but it’s a powerful market. It’s a very influential market, and most mainstream people don’t understand that, they really don’t understand that it is powerful, it’s loyal, it spends money, it likes to enjoy life, but it’s also a very, very influential market.

Jenn T. Grace:

So if you were going to speak directly to someone who’s listening to this interview today, and could give them one tip on how they could begin to point themselves in the right direction to be successful in reaching this loyal and captive market, what would that one piece of advice be?

Colin Sines:

It’s actually more than one question, Jenn. First thing they have to do is understand why they want the market. Number two is then they have to understand the market; who is the market, what is the market, what are their likes, what’s important to them? And then once you have those in place then you have to make a commitment. You can’t just suddenly put an ad somewhere and expect the results. You have to build up your loyalty, you have to build up your credibility to the market because the market has been let down so many times by companies. And so you have to approach the market properly, you have to make a commitment- a long-term commitment, and the market has to become part of your marketing plan. I mean most organizations have a marketing plan with totally different segments, and suddenly LGBT needs to be one of those segments. And then to really, really reach the market, you need to get involved in your local LGBG market community. Whether that’s sponsoring a Pride, or being involved in Pride, or whatever; but you need to go out in your local community. That’s a first learning curve and that’s how you start to understand work with your local community helps you understand the bigger picture.

Jenn T. Grace:

Absolutely. So can you elaborate a little bit more on that first point that you were making about just understanding why? Why you want to even market to the community to begin with? You know, for somebody who might be thinking, ‘You know, I never actually thought about why this is important to me.’ And maybe it’s somebody who’s looking at it from the lens of just dollars and cents. And based on your other points we know that that is not true.

Colin Sines:

Exactly. I mean most businesses would look at what the spend of the market is. For instance, the Canadian market annually spends $8.5 billion on travel. I mean that’s huge. Considering- I mean in the US I think that number is around $85 million or billion, but we only have a population in Canada of about 33 million. So we’re a small market, but that’s a huge number. So it’s not a question of saying, ‘Okay, I want to have part of that market share,’ it’s are you prepared to accept two males sitting down for dinner, two females sitting down having dinner, and participating in the services that you offer? And they are obviously gay or lesbian. So I think it’s a question of saying, ‘We want this revenue, but are we prepared to accept these?’ Because one other thing that I talk to businesses about, that if you make a mistake it will be blasted everywhere. Your friends or relatives, local organizations, will be aware that you were totally unaccepting to them. And that’s the biggest mistake you can make; is to try and get over that, or away from that once it’s happened is very difficult.

Jenn T. Grace:

Oh it absolutely is. And you know, I had a friend once tell me- and she has a law firm and she said that there’s a very big difference between having a sign on your door that says that you are welcoming to the LGBT community, and be willing to accept an LGBT client. And I thought that that was such a brilliant- a brilliant way of looking at it because there’s so many people out there who are just waving the rainbow flag so to speak saying, ‘Yes, come in, we’re welcoming of you.’ But yet at the same time, when it comes down to having that gay male couple sitting at your table like you said, the treatment may not actually be there, and then that’s where you get into a world of trouble.

Colin Sines:

Exactly and that goes back to my original point, and that is you have to understand the market, you have to understand what they’re looking for, and you have to literally understand the market. It’s not understanding that two guys that are getting married are gay; it’s how does the rest of your organization work? And that’s why Travel Gay Canada, we offer- we have an education foundation which also does diversity training for businesses. And it teaches managers and underlying staff on how to react and how to be accepting. You know if two guys check into a hotel, and the last thing you want is the clerk to say, ‘Oh there must be some mistake here because the reservation is for a king size bed.’

Jenn T. Grace:

Mm hmm. And there’s so many people who have had that story.

Colin Sines:

Yes, absolutely.

Jenn T. Grace:

This is all really interesting what we’re talking about. I’m curious if you would just share maybe a little bit more about Travel Gay Canada. I know that you have a conference coming up that I had the pleasure of attending last year, and it was just a wonderful experience. So I would love for you to just share a little bit more about that with the audience.

Colin Sines:

Every year- this is our fifth one coming up next month. Every year we do a conference that actually is an LGBT tourism conference. We do a day and a half of intense, actually, it’s pretty intense, educational programs and we research really neat speakers who don’t necessarily need to- not necessarily gay, or talk about the LGBT market in their normal lives, but they have- for instance opening keynote is Max Valiquette. And he’s in Economic Development and Trend Marketing Specialist; he was actually awarded or stated to be one of Canada’s best marketing gurus by Marketing Magazine. Now he’s actually talking about trends; trends for today and the trends for tomorrow, and how the benefits will help the business for tomorrow. And he’s done this presentation many times, but he’s going to be focusing the LGBT market within that presentation. We have leveraging social media to grow LGBT market share. Destination case study, this year is- we always do a destination case study, this year it’s Fort Lauderdale, they have been very successful at creating a very, very successful LGBT destination.

Jenn T. Grace:

I think they were just named Top Destination by- I’m trying to think what organization just gave them some top LGBT destination title, it just happened; I just read it a couple days ago.

Colin Sines:

Oh, really?

Jenn T. Grace:

For Fort Lauderdale, yeah. Man About the World, or something like that.

Colin Sines:

Oh, okay.

Jenn T. Grace:

Definitely, they are certainly doing a lot of good stuff these days.

Colin Sines:

Yeah, for sure. Then we have finding the right strategy for our chosen target market. A lot of the mainstream businesses are under the assumption that the gay market is one market; not anymore. It is diversified as the mainstream, because you have singles, you have committed relationships, you have married, then you have families. And you have male, and you have female. So they all have different needs, different wants. So you need to find out which one of those markets that fits your service, or your facility or what do you want to- which market do you want to go after? So this particular session- we are focusing on families and lesbians because their needs are very different from the gay market. That we’ve got Gregg Kaminsky from R Family Vacations is going to be talking about the family market and they’ve been very successful, and they’re based in New York, but they’re very successful at the family market. We’ve also got the Vice President, Ross Levi from- who’s with the Empire State Tourism Division, and he’s the VP of marketing initiatives, and they’ve just launched the LGBT- its I Love New York LGBT commercial. And so he’s coming up to do a session with the Vice President of Marketing for Ontario tourism. And so the session is LGBT travel without borders; so it’s how to leverage US and Canada relations for the LGBT market. Then we have actually have a session called Pink Money which is including same sex couples in ads that can pay off. And I talk to people about that here and if you take your ad, if you take an ad and it’s the same ad that you’ve used in mainstream, then even though you’re in a gay magazine or a gay publication, or a gay website, that ad is not talking directly to the consumer. It’s not saying, ‘Hey,’ it’s not saying, ‘We understand and this is what we want.’ But if that same ad had two guys or two girls, and you’re a member of say, Travel Gay Canada, and you have the logo of Travel Gay Canada or IGLTA which is the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. It makes the statement that there are two same-sex people there, and you’re supporting these two organizations which means then you’re very involved in the LGBT community.

Jenn T. Grace:

And that was one of your earlier points, was if you- you need to be committed for the long term in doing this, but then also be involved locally. Or, it could be nationally if that happens to be your target market. Or it could be based on industry. And I think that IGLTA and Travel Gay Canada are really fine examples of a way to show your support and for that consumer who’s looking at that advertisement or sees that commercial and sees those logos, I think it just shows a heightened awareness of the community when you are willing to partner with an organization like yourself or IGLTA.

Colin Sines:

Oh for sure, absolutely. Absolutely. And Toronto-Dominion Bank has been- was one of the very, very first national organizations in Canada to make a commitment to the LGBT market, and it started from the CEO down, and they went- they did in house, internally they went from him and it went all the way down, they built this culture right the way down to the bank teller. And they now are probably the most recognized organization- mainstream organization that is involved in the LGBT community. They sponsor and support about 52 Prides across Canada, they are very, very much involved and they were the very first organization to have on TV, and have in print, and I’m not talking just the LGBT, I’m talking about mainstream like the Global Mail and the Toronto Star. Two guys sitting and they’re talking to a mortgage broker. So this is basically how it’s starting to actually change the market now and the community, it’s not about separation anymore, it’s about integration. So the companies and organizations that are advertising in mainstream, but advertising to the gay market is where it’s at; that’s what they want to see, that’s what we as a community want to see. So it’s all about integration now. I’ve had conversations here locally where one of the cities- St. Catharines actually, who wanted to include on their annual tourism guide LGBT and they said, ‘Do we do a separate section? And how do we do this?’ And I said, ‘Nothing. You don’t do a separate segregation section. You take imagery and you put- integrate imagery within your imagery. So instead of having this particular mainstream ad, you put in there two guys having a glass of wine. Over here you have two girls going shopping. And over here, you have a group of gay people maybe experiencing kayaking or something. So it’s just a question of integrating; you don’t- there’s no separation anymore. And the sooner the mainstream markets and businesses start to understand that, the better.

Jenn T. Grace:

Sometimes I wish I had- I was recording these via video, because the entire time you’re talking I’m sitting here nodding my head and then I’m realizing that the audience does not see that. But you are making such amazing points here, and I think just- I do have a lot of Canadian listeners and I do have a global audience as well, but I would say the majority are probably American-based listeners so TD Bank is who Colin was just speaking about, because I know that you said Toronto-Dominion, and I don’t think everybody recognizes that’s TD Bank.

Colin Sines:

Yeah, sorry.

Jenn T. Grace:

Oh no worries at all. And TD does absolutely amazing things. I’m pretty certain they’re only focused in Canada and then on the east coast of the United States. So I’m in Connecticut, so we have a ton of them here, and I actually joke quite frequently that my six-year-old son is going to be a salesperson for TD because he just is absolutely obsessed with everything TD Bank and he’s got all sorts of- he’s got like the rainbow shirts that they give out at Pride, he’s got all sorts of like rainbow frisbees; he’s like a walking poster for TD Bank so that’s actually pretty funny. I want to just take a quick pause here for a commercial break. We are kind of skipping all around today, but this is such a great conversation, I just want to hold off for just a second and we will be right back.

So we are back, we are talking to Colin today, who is sharing all sorts of great wisdom around the LGBT market, and we were just discussing the great things that TD Bank, which is one of the- I would say many companies now, who’s doing some really great stuff for the LGBT community. But in many ways I would say they probably are pioneers because they do really nail home the concept of- I always call it inclusion-based marketing, but you really just talked- and I think it’s a really great phrase too, that it’s not separation, but it’s integration. So I think that that’s definitely a really good takeaway from today’s conversation. If you were to give- I know that we were talking about giving the listeners marketing advice around how to be successful with the LGBT audience. Do you have any other type of piece of business wisdom that you’ve been given that’s kind of one of those things that just is- sticks in the back of your mind on a day-to-day business as you’re going about your business?
Colin Sines:

Well I think it really comes down to- number one, it’s understanding who the market is, and what the market is. Because I don’t think you can actually approach a market unless you really understand it. And if it’s a business that’s going into the market for the first time, you know understanding your family vacation business, and then understanding the singles market or whatever. In mainstream it’s totally different when it comes to the LGBT market. Because we think differently, we think out of the box, we look for different unique experiences as opposed to mainstream. And that’s why in both in the US and in Canada, the LGBT market have a higher, a higher percentage of them have passports as opposed to mainstream. So we tend to do things differently, we tend to- we like to go away more often, we like to take small breaks more often. We like to try different things. I mean we like to try the outdoor stuff, we like to try- we enjoy wine and culinary experiences, and we enjoy other cultures. So we have a very different demand for our expectations when we go to a destination. I guess it really comes back to truly understanding the market, how people react, what is it they’re looking for, and how do you talk to them? It’s not just a question of advertising, it’s literally how do I talk to them? And it’s not specifically on talking, it’s but how do I put my product in front of that particular market that shows them that I respect them, I accept them and I want them to experience what I have to give them as an experience.

Jenn T. Grace:

Absolutely and one of the points that you’ve brought up a couple of different times when you’re talking about the education foundation of Travel Gay Canada and how you go into businesses and kind of help with diversity trainings. And then also that experience of two men checking into a hotel and that being something that can be a trigger point for somebody on the front lines to question whether or not that’s accurate. So I think to your point here about you have to understand your market and you have to have to know your market. But you have to ultimately understand that the entire organization needs to be behind what you’re doing because you can be spending a lot of money on these great, beautiful campaigns, but then you could have somebody- you know a guest run into somebody in an elevator and that person- that staff person of yours say something completely offensive, and then that person then goes off and makes everyone aware of the mistake that your company has just made; even though it might be one individual within that entire property, that’s the reputation that’s going to unfortunately unravel. So I feel like it’s really important to drive the point home of everybody needs to be properly trained, everybody needs to be on the same page because it just takes one person out of a group to really kind of put a bad reputation to your company; even if that’s not the case.

Colin Sines:

Oh absolutely. Absolutely. And it’s one thing to do diversity training, but when I was at Vintage Hotels which was a group of luxury properties, we developed the market, we actually developed a section in our Human Resources section on employee orientation. Because the hotel industry is one industry where employees are very transient, so somebody could take the diversity training today, and they’re there a year, and then that person is replaced with a new individual. So even to this day, Vintage Hotels on their orientation for new employees- which they will have to take before they start work, and it’s a half-day session; part of that orientation is the LGBT market.

Jenn T. Grace:

That’s really important.

Colin Sines:

And the acceptance of the market, and this is how you handle this, and this is how you handle that, and this is what you don’t do, and so on. So it suddenly becomes part of the culture of an organization, and that starts internally. You’re absolutely right, it starts internally and it starts from the top and it has to maintain all the way through. Because a lot of organizations can go out, invest in diversity training, but it’s not one occurrence; it has to be maintained. So to maintain that, it needs to become part of your actual culture and your orientation, especially for new employees.

Jenn T. Grace:

Absolutely. Yeah, I’ve had a handful of companies reach out to me in wanting me to help them with their LGBT marketing, and I always ask the first questions of, ‘What are you doing internally to support this? Because if you’re not doing anything at all, no matter what I do for you, it’s not going to be successful in the long-term.’

Colin Sines:

Absolutely.

Jenn T. Grace:

Yeah, we’re a finicky market in many, many ways. And one of the things that I want to ask you about, and I was contemplating the best way to phrase this, because when you were talking about the LGBT traveller, and you were talking about how we as LGBT people crave different types of experiences and there’s data that shows that we’re more interested in more cultural things. Or we’re interested in just different types of experiences that maybe the average consumer might not be. Do you ever find that there is ever a gay area in which you cross between the data showing certain things, and possibly stereotypes of what people perceive the LGBT consumer to be when that may not be representative of all LGBT travellers and consumers?

Colin Sines:

Yes, I think- yes, for sure there is. One of the many hats as you call, I do- I produce Out Visions Magazine. It’s an LGBT professional magazine, and it was designed and put together to showcase the LGBT community in a very different light. It’s not offensive, anyone, anywhere, anyhow can pick the magazine up and read it. In fact we do have many mainstream subscribers who often contact me and say, ‘This is a really fantastic magazine, Colin.’ I take people that- for instance last year a cover story was a guy by the name of Michael, and he lives in Waterloo, Ontario. He’s 31 years old, he bought a historic hotel, he’s restoring it, and he’s made the main floor into an art gallery for the local artists to show their work and sell their work. On top of that, every night, every occupied room, a dollar is going to build this school in Africa. And I think it’s almost complete now, and he goes over twice a year and he takes binders and pens and all the supplies. That is something that most mainstream will not associate with a gay person or an LGBT person. And in fact, there are many, many LGBT community members who support their local community, whether that’s fundraising for a food bank, or whether it’s supporting whatever goes on in their local community or nationally. And so that’s what I take in Out Visions, is to showcase individuals doing that. So we’ve had the recent one that just came out is the director of the National Theatre School of Canada, and she’s a director, she’s a producer, she’s with- she produces and performs some amazing, amazing live theatre. And again, that’s putting it on sort of a kind of a cultural level. And when we started this conversation I mentioned that the market may be a niche market, but it’s a very influential market, and when I go out to research the cover stories that I want to do, it’s amazing the impact that some of these people have on society. And it positions people- or it positions the LGBT market in a totally different light, and I think that’s why the magazine has been successful, because it does specifically do that. And it doesn’t necessarily focus on what a lot of magazines do, and that’s the gay cruises and all stuff like that. I really talk about people and what they do, and how they affect society as a whole, and especially how they help to position the LGBT community as a whole.

Jenn T. Grace:

So if somebody’s listening to this and they want to check out your magazine, where would you send them?

Colin Sines:

The online edition is www.OutVisions.com.

Jenn T. Grace:

Excellent. So what I will do is all of the things that we’ve been talking about today, I will include in the show notes for today’s episode. So if anyone is listening to this, they can head over to my website and get all of the links. I know that we have been really heavily focused on marketing today, which is so amazing because you’ve brought up so many really great points, and I think that it’s always important for my listeners to hear from somebody who’s been doing this for a while, who’s very- has a great reputation in the community for doing this, and of course you’re the go-to person in Canada for all things LGBT tourism, which I think is totally amazing. So it’s been great having this conversation with you today. One of the things that I wanted to ask you before we depart, is I think in the beginning of the episode you really talked about what kind of prompted you to get into this area with the ceremony that you were putting together for your late partner. What now is something that just keeps you motivated and inspires you to continue doing this each and every day?

Colin Sines:

I think what inspires me is I’m very proud and very happy with who I am, and on a daily basis I’m out in the community and I get very excited when I talk about the LGBT community. Because we are an exciting part of our growth. We still have a ways to go, but when I think back, when I was- if I go back twenty years and I was experiencing what was going on then, and now I’m experiencing where we are today. And the other thing Jenn, is in two years after James died, I was diagnosed with colon cancer and literally almost died. In fact my family in the UK were all packed, that’s because the doctors didn’t think I was going to make it.

Jenn T. Grace:

Oh my.

Colin Sines:

But I did make it, and so that changed my whole outlook on life period. So if my eyes open in the morning and I can stand up and walk, then it’s going to be a great day. So I take that outlook on life as a whole, and I bring in the LGBT market. And I think it’s exciting where we are today and I think everything that I can do to push that forward, I’m happy to do that. And I can sit down with people who have negative attitude towards, and then by the end of we’ve had a conversation for an hour, they are starting to understand that it’s not what they thought it was. Because mainstream media tend to focus on the Pride floats, and they don’t understand that that’s not the market. That’s the young market. The market today has changed dramatically; the trends have changed, the demographics have changed, the recent research that we did for Travel Gay Canada that we did on Canadian tourism market, the age group- 62% were between the ages of 25 and 55. So you’ve got this total mass of people that- a lot of them don’t even go to Pride anymore. They have their own life, they want- they’ve got different standards, they want different experiences, they’re just totally different. So that’s what motivates me, is talking to people and saying, ‘This is who the community is. This is who it is.’ And I had somebody say to me when I was doing a presentation said, ‘I’m really not quite sure I want to have two people that have been on a float walking through my hotel.’ And I said, ‘But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about this particular segment. Okay? That particular segment is not there yet, they haven’t established themselves yet. This is who they have. So you wouldn’t want me to walk through your lobby?’ And he’s going, ‘Oh no, absolutely not. That’s not what I mean.’ I said, ‘But it is what you mean because you’re saying that the LGBT market is not for you,’ right? And so that’s how I make the point. But to motivate me every day, as I mentioned it goes back to having colon cancer, but today I get very enthusiastic whenever I talk about the LGBT market because as I said in the beginning, it’s a niche market but it’s a huge market and it’s also a very influential market. And if I can continue to push that message out, then I’m happy.

Jenn T. Grace:

Absolutely. I feel the exact same way. It’s just a matter- and it comes down to educating, and I think that you have a great way of doing that exactly.

Colin Sines:

Thank you.

Jenn T. Grace:

Well this has been an absolutely wonderful interview, I cannot wait for my audience to listen to this because it’s just so packed with really- I think valuable and tangible information around the community. So thank you so much for taking the time out of your day today.

Colin Sines:

My pleasure, and it was a great experience for me too. Thanks for the opportunity, Jenn. If I could just give the Travel Gay Canada Conference website, just so that if anybody is interested that they can at least see the website.

Jenn T. Grace:

Absolutely.

Colin Sines:

Okay it’s www.TGCConference.com.

Jenn T. Grace:

Perfect and what are the dates of the conference?

Colin Sines:

It’s October 23-24.

Jenn T. Grace:

Alright so that’s this episode is airing on, let’s just double-check, October 2nd. So for those of you listening to this, you still have a couple of weeks to get yourself registered for the conference. I went last year, and it was a really, really great experience. So hopefully you have the opportunity to attend this year.

Colin Sines:

And also Jenn, in case any of your listeners want to talk or chat to me personally, my email address is Colin@travelgaycanada.com.

Jenn T. Grace:

Perfect, I would highly encourage people to reach out to you since you are certainly an absolute expert in this. So if you’re looking for more advice on the community, especially the travel and tourism market, please take advantage of Colin’s offer and reach out to him. Excellent again, well thank you so much, I really do appreciate it.

Colin Sines:

My pleasure, my pleasure Jenn. Thanks for the opportunity.

Jenn T. Grace:

Alright, thank you so much for listening to today’s podcast interview with Colin. I hope that you found value in this episode. I know that it’s always a treat when I get to talk to a fellow expert in the field, and somebody who’s been doing it for quite some time, to just impart so much wisdom on us. So I really hope you enjoyed it, I know I certainly enjoyed having the conversation with him. So if you liked this episode, chances are you might like previous episodes. So if this might be your first time listening to the podcast, you can head over to my website at www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast, and you can find- I’m guessing, let’s see we’re at episode number 43 now, so you can find 73- or 72 other episodes of this podcast. So that is 72 hours approximately, of listening pleasure. And it’s just filled with tons of information. So if you’re interested in finding out more, please head over there.

Also on the website you can find a ton of useful information such as a three part video series, I have many, many blog posts, I’m well over 200 posts, and you can always find ways to connect with me directly, directly from the site. So if you are interested in reaching out to me, for any particular reason, I’m always, always interested in hearing from you. So feel free to shoot over an email, some sort of message on Facebook, on Twitter, LinkedIn, you name it; I’m there and all of my contact information is directly on the website.

So until next time, thank you so much for being a great listener, I really appreciate you taking your time to listen to me and my wonderful guests and we will talk in the next episode. Thanks so much, have a good one. Bye bye.

 

As always thanks for listening today, I hope you enjoyed it and found value in this episode!

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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