2018 is filled with news of natural disasters, worldwide political changes, and long-standing wars coming to an end. But there is one thing that is steadily being fought for over the years: Our quest for fairness and equality for all have brought us closer than ever to equal rights for the LGBTQ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community.
As a result, one of the fastest growing tourism sectors is LGBT travel. According to American market researcher Forrester, the LGBT market is worth £6Bn in the United Kingdom, and $85Bn (USD) in the United States.
The rapid increase of LGBT Travel will only benefit travel / luxury brands so it is essential to take care and encourage this clientele. Here are a number of ways travel brands can employ in order to better cater to this growing market that spends 33 percent more on travel than non-LGBT travellers.
1. Luxury Travel for the LGBT market
Research from the UNWTO (United Nations World Travel Organisation) has shown that the LGBT market is growing rapidly and that by 2030, there will be 180 million LGBTQ travellers worldwide. Also, a staggering 31 percent of Centennials (those born after 1995), identify as LGBTQ.
Luxury travel brands should welcome and embrace this growth because 43 percent of over-40 gay and lesbian travellers, and 63 percent of their younger counterparts tend to prefer custom-made holidays booked through a travel agency.
In addition, LGBT travellers in general have a relatively high spending power. LGBT couples often have a dual and above average income with no children. Because school holidays (or holidays in general) does not affect their travel decision, LGBT couples are able to travel more often, spend more on travel, and still travel on off-season. (The LGBT market travels an average of 4-6 times annually).
*Having said the above, do keep in mind that LGBT family travel is also on the rise. The growth of equal rights for LGBT also means that the options for LGBT to either become parents, or to expand their families is increasing. Therefore, both family-friendliness and LGBT-friendliness are a requirement for this growing sector.
2. Keep up with the times / news
Travel advisors and agents are advised to keep abreast of the latest news that affect LGBT travel. For instance, Bermuda, a popular honeymoon destination (a quick 90-minute non-stop flight from New York, and 7 hours from London Gatwick), has overturned a gay marriage ban that was signed into law earlier this year.
This is good news for British-American cruise operator Carnival Corp., which is registered in Bermuda. For the period of time that Bermuda’s government reversed the legalisation of same-sex marriage, it created a significant issue for Carnival Corp. The ban meant that Carnival’s subsidiaries, Cunard and P&O Cruises cannot conduct same-sex marriages regardless of where the ships are in the world.
Being aware of governments that make history and legalise same-sex marriage will help as these countries/ cities will unsurprisingly see an increase in LGBT tourism.
For example, with marriage equality today being a reality in cities like Mexico City, Lisbon, Buenos Aires and Barcelona, it is little surprise that LGBT couples are gravitating towards Spanish and Portuguese speaking destinations.
3. Pay attention to details that matter
When it comes to luxury and family travel, travellers may have similar needs and wants, be it LGBT or non-LGBT travellers. From generational to experiential travel, these trends tend to have a pretty universal appeal that transcends across all travel niches. However, travel brands and agents who are catering to LBGT travellers are advised to think about details that matter (but sometimes may not be too obvious).
Small things like bedding configuration, and how to address a couple may not be given a second thought when dealing with non-LGBT clients, but it pays to be sensitive and conscious about these small details.
When it comes to this, communication is key. It will never hurt to politely ask your clients for details that you think may be essential in making their trip as seamless and as comfortable for them as possible.
A tip for travel agents: Once you have your client’s pertinent information, remember to relay this to suppliers in their trip, such as the hotel or tour operator. Nothing is more frustrating to a traveller (any type of traveller at that) than to have key information missed or not relayed to the concerned suppliers and finding this out during the time of travel.
4. Be Conscious of Destinations and Brands that are Gay friendly (or not)
According to the 2017 Annual Report by ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), gay relationships are still criminalised in 72 countries.
Popular honeymoon destinations such as the Maldives and Bali, for instance, practice Islamic and Balinese faith respectively. It pays to know what these destinations’ stances are on gay relationships.
An article by The Guardian lists seven countries where LGBT rights are most under threat. Honduras, Egypt, and Russia are on this list, countries that are relatively popular tourism destinations.
Travel agents and operators with existing partnerships and alliances with hotels and other travel brands are advised to check what these brands’ stances are on LGBT travel.
For instance, should you inadvertently book them in a hotel that discriminates or is unwelcoming to LGBT travellers, this will reflect on your brand, even if you yourself or your brand is gay friendly.
This is when agent family trips are helpful, as it is really essential to feel and see for yourself how a hotel welcomes their guests. This way you can relay customer service experiences to clients and also effectively recommend.
It pays to know that for most LGBT travellers, comfort is the main priority, and not necessarily price. Comfort includes making one feel accepted and LGBT travellers are happy to spend more for products, experiences, and brands that make them feel welcome.
5. When it comes to Marketing – Keep it Simple
The Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas was held a couple of months ago. In an industry panel on luxury LGBTQ travel (where the moderator and panellists were all gay men), the consensus was that LGBT travellers should be treated just like every other luxury travel client. Special needs is not a requirement, just paying extra attention.
And when it comes to tapping into the LGBTQ market, the panellists agreed that it can be helpful for an agency to keep it simple and straightforward. There is no need to put too much emphasis on the rainbow. For instance, simply stating on your company website that you specialise in LGBT travel, or that you are a member of IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association) is helpful enough.
When looking for brands to collaborate with, it also helps to tap into lifestyle brands. For instance, earlier this year, Sydney’s Mardi Gras has teamed up with dating app Tinder, with the goal of making meaningful matches throughout the carnival.
Mark Twain has famously said that, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” The more that people travel, the more open minded they generally become. As travel brands, our role in this quest for equality is to ensure that all travellers- be it luxury, straight, or LGBT, have the best and most comfortable experience so that they travel even more.