LGBT Survey Sends a Message: Pay Attention to This Market
by Ana Figueroa

Tourism spend by the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) market will exceed $200 billion by 2014. That’s the eye-popping figure released earlier this month at World Travel Market in London.

The data comes from the new LGBT2020 survey conducted by the travel trade association Out Now Business Class (ONBC). An affiliate of the global marketing firm Out Now Global, ONBC’s 2,300 members include hotels, brand managers and other decision makers involved in LGBT tourism.

Figures tell the story
“Travel agents will find the research trends significant in a number of ways,” Out Now Global CEO Ian Johnson told Travel Market Report.

For one thing, the sheer numbers in the LGBT2020 findings show that the market has outgrown its designation as a mere niche, Johnson said.

With an annual spend of $56.5 billion, the U.S. is the largest source of LGBT tourism dollars. That’s a market agents can’t afford to ignore, Johnson said.

The LGBT market is also growing.

“The terrific thing about tourism is that there are always new travelers,” Johnson said. “People are more and more comfortable about being out. They feel safer being out.”

Destinations and interests
Johnson noted new trends in destinations that appeal to LGBT travelers.

“The first wave of consumers has now passed through the expected destinations. They’re done and dusted. The LGBT consumer has been there, done that and bought the T-shirt,” said Johnson.

By “expected destinations,” Johnson meant cities like Berlin, New York, San Francisco, Sydney and London.

A growing trend now is travel to a second wave of smaller, more unexpected LGBT destinations, including Stockholm, Helsinki, Manchester, England, and Australia’s Gold Coast.  

Genre travel
The LGBT2020 data also honed in on specific types of travel.

“In terms of leisure activities, dining and gastronomy are very big in this market,” said Johnson.  

Interest in adventure travel and honeymoon travel is also rapidly increasing, he added.  

“More and more states are allowing gay marriage,” said Johnson. “Couples are deciding where to marry and also where to honeymoon.

“A big trend we see is that people are choosing places where equality is part of the local landscape. Seventy-three percent in our study responded that they are either greatly or moderately influenced by how the locals are treated.”

Booking preferences
In its look at booking preferences, LGBT2020 found that price comparison websites such as kayak.com are most popular for booking hotels and airlines. Direct bookings with hotel or airline websites were a second-ranked choice.

But there’s good news for agents as well.

“We found that a significant portion of the market prefers to use travel agents. Opportunities are there,” said Johnson.

Agents can tap into those opportunities through social media platforms and other marketing programs that target LGBT clients, Johnson advised.

Tourism boards, hotels and destinations are already doing that, he added.

In fact, a number of global tourism entities announced new initiatives directed at the LGBT community at World Travel Market.

Among them are the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitor Bureau and the Mexico Tourism Board. The latter’s  #MexicoFriendly LGBT marketing campaign resulted in expanded programs designed to engage the LGBT community in 2014.

Reaching the market  
Out Now Business Class offers training, education and networking to suppliers and destinations who want to target LGBT travelers. Courtesy, sensitivity and professional customer service are crucial, as they are for any market.

“Our trends research shows that one of the simplest commodities is the most important to the LGBT traveler: respect,” Johnson said.

“The number one concern people cite when planning a trip is, will they feel welcomed? That’s an important thing for agents to know.”

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