Tourisme Montréal Temporarily Turns Off The Gay

March 5th, 2010

James over at Gay Persons of Color noticed something odd the other day. Tourisme Montréal, which recently launched a new promotional blog called The Montréal Buzz to replace the five separate ones they started last summer, had added an on/off switch to the top of their page labelled “LGBT Content.” It was off by default.

I emailed Daniel Baylis—Tourisme Montréal’s amazing gay events blogger—to see what was up. Here is his explanation:

Tourisme Montréal is very aware of the LGBT market, and wanted to ensure that LGBT content was still part of “The Montréal Buzz.” But they were also concerned about reactions to people landing on a webpage and seeing too much “gay” — for instance, the perhaps-under-sophisticated couple from the mid-west who is thinking about Montréal as a destination. There is a risk that they would see some of half naked men kissing each other and think that Montréal was not for them. Ultimately we want all types of people to visit our city and experience the joie de vivre.

I don’t envy the tourism marketing industry; they have to advertise a city as being the perfect destination for all people, including crazy bigots who feel faint at the thought they might be sharing the city with a gay. (Shock horror!)

The solution, though, shouldn’t have been to hide us gays behind a curtain with a drawstring tucked away in the corner for the curious. I mean, this is Montréal we’re talking about here; all tourists will encounter a gay person every thirty seconds. Pretending that we didn’t exist for the benefit of some extra closed-minded visitors wasn’t just offensive to gays, it was an inaccurate portrayal of an incredible, diverse city. It was the sort of ill-advised compromise that I’d expect from one of Canada’s more, uh, shall we say “perhaps-under-sophisticated” tourism marketing organizations.

Whether a post features half-naked men kissing each other or not (and let’s face it, photos of half-naked people are a staple of the entire tourism industry), Tourisme Montréal had identified all GLBT content as a special hazard, unshared by any other post category. Why, even a post about Piknic Électronique, Parc Jean Drapeau’s weekly outdoor DJ set, was hidden by default because it was presumably too gay. This ran completely counter to the original idea of a unified blog to showcase all of Montréal’s vibrancy.

The switch is gone now—as of last night—but that probably still leaves The Montréal Buzz with a dilemma: How do you advertise the same place to people who are looking for very different experiences? Their old solution of having multiple blogs (including a gay one) made sense, but meant that people interested in more than one category had to follow several subsites.

Personally, I’d recommend fairer category filters that don’t single out any community as being somehow risky or problematic. After all, a couple of young gay tourists are probably just as uninterested in child-friendly stroller parks as conservative mid-westerners would be for Divers/Cité. Having a small list of check boxes for categories like “Family,” “Seniors,” “Night life,” “GLBT,” etc. would keep the spirit of a unified blog that can be browsed all at once, while still presenting an audience-targeted view of the city and not unfairly singling out the gays.

Whatever they end up doing now, I’m happy to see that Tourisme Montréal recognized their mistake and got rid of the switch so quickly. In fact, to facilitate the matter, it has been moved here. I don’t think I’ll put it at the top of the page, but it’ll be well taken care of, I promise!

Gay toggle button

A tremendous hat tip to James over at Gay Persons of Color for alerting me to the story.