Bell apologizes for ‘gay tourism’ error

Jobs Minister Pat Bell has asked his staff to investigate how a ministry brochure erroneously warned against promoting gay tourism in China.

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VICTORIA – Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell has asked his ministry staff to investigate how a B.C. government brochure on marketing in China came to include an erroneous warning against promotion of gambling and gay tourism in the country.

Speaking to reporters by phone from Beijing Tuesday, Bell offered an apology to anyone who is offended by the reference to gay tourism in the brochure, which is being rewritten.

Entitled “How to Market Your Business in China,” the brochure was released by his ministry days before Bell and Premier Christy Clark left for B.C.’s largest-ever trade mission to China.

It said B.C. tourism partners must “prohibit the promotion of casinos, gambling and gay tourism, per the China National Tourism Association.”

When the issue was raised Monday, Bell initially said the restriction was a result of Canada’s negotiations with China for “approved destination status,” which allows Chinese tourists to visit Canada without visas.

After further checking by ministry staff, Bell said no such restrictions exist in Canada’s tourism agreement with China.

“It is still unclear to me how that passage was inserted into the document,” Bell said. “We can not find any direction either from the [approved destination status] agreement signed with the Chinese or any other place. We are still researching that and I’ve asked my deputy to find out exactly how that happened.”

The Chinese government has struggled with acceptance of homosexuality, which was removed in 2001 from the country’s official list of mental disorders. The state-run China Daily has run several articles in recent years signalling acceptance or discussing moderating public attitudes towards gay marriage.

Tourism Vancouver promotes the city as a gay-friendly place to visit, with the largest gay population in Western Canada and the host city for the North American Outgames in July.

Since the trip began last week, Clark and Bell have highlighted the signing of an agreement with Sichuan Airlines to begin three flights a week to Vancouver starting next year.

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