Research from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has identified LGBT travellers as a segment that travels more frequently than the average traveller, and a segment that demonstrates higher-than-average patterns of spending while abroad. In fact, the UK LGBT market alone has an estimated spending power of £6 billion! In light of this, it will be no surprise to hear that the LGBT market is a huge opportunity for luxury travel brands around the world.
Despite this, many luxury hotels and destinations aren’t actively targeting this highly lucrative market.
As proud members of the LGBT community ourselves, as well as working in luxury travel PR and sales representation, we’re lucky enough to be able to look at this opportunity through both lenses.
We appreciate that cultural and legislative differences will influence your travel brand’s ability to embrace the LGBT market, so this post is aimed at hotels and destinations who are able, and happy, to openly welcome travellers from the LGBT community.
We’ve put together 7 key steps you can take to unlock the power of the travelling LGBT market for your hotel, destination or travel brand:
1. Understand the LGBT consumer
The LGBT community is as varied as the rainbow flag that represents it – a patchwork of cultures, subcultures, tastes and interests. To fully understand the LGBT community, you need to appreciate its variety and realise that its needs as a market are as varied as that of other travellers (e.g. you’d use different marketing approaches to target families, seniors, couples or singles).
So, let’s kick things off with the name itself.
Throughout this post, we will be using the initialism LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans), however, there are many variations of this (LGBTQ or LGBTQA). Don’t be afraid of the name — just be consistent yet adaptable with the times.
For this market recognition and acceptance of individuality are vital. You may have preconceptions about the LGBT community as a whole, and we are sure hit-and-miss representation in the media only fuels these, however the community is as varied as any other group of people and involves a whole range of individuals with different needs, desires, hopes and dreams — the underlying link is a need for recognition and acceptance and in particular within the travel industry, a desire to feel welcome.
Pro Tip: Pride events happen yearly in major cities of the world – this is a fantastic opportunity to engage and celebrate with the LGBT community
2. Diversity starts at home
If your hotel or destination is in a position to welcome the LGBT market, it’s important to look at this beyond a marketing opportunity. What we mean is, let’s not become guilty of being LGBT friendly in our marketing, but then not be the same in the workplace environment that we’re creating for our staff.
Having policies in place that let staff know you’re accepting of the LGBT community will help to create an authentic culture of acceptance and equality that will feed through into the experience that’s offered to guests.
Sophie Griffiths TTG Editor and the spearhead of TTG LGBT, kindly spoke to us about this:
“Diversity has to start at home – you need to be authentic, because if not you will fail at targeting the LGBT market before you’ve even started”.
A great place to start is the TTG Diversity Charter – a pledge for the travel industry as a whole to come together and create an accepting, welcoming and most importantly an inclusive environment for all of us working in this sector!
Here at Lemongrass, we signed the charter when it was released and as an agency, we actively go out and represent our company at LGBT travel networking events and debates, share blogs like this and get involved in marketing to this community.
Pro tip: Sign the TTG Diversity Charter if your company is in a position to do so and welcome and celebrate all diversity in your own workplace before trying to market to this community. If interested, you can also get involved in the TTG’s conference and this year’s Travel Pride.
3. Be LGBT friendly, not “LGBT friendly”
Saying you’re LGBT friendly and being LGBT friendly can be two very different things. To truly be LGBT friendly means that welcoming the LGBT community is an authentic part of your travel brand’s offering. It’s a commitment and value that everyone in your team will need to respect and share.
One of the most important steps is to pick out what exactly it is about your travel brand that makes you LGBT friendly.
As Sophie noted:
“Just sticking a rainbow flag on your site isn’t enough. If you’re a tourist board, have you checked that hotels are welcoming and if so, can you perhaps list those that are? And if you’re a hotelier, make sure that your staff are fully trained and that you have a policy in place should a customer be made to feel unwelcome – either by staff or by another customer. If you have a flag on your website and you claim to be LGBT-friendly, you need to be prepared to live up to this claim”.
—Sophie Griffiths TTG Editor and the spearhead of TTG LGBT
Hamburg is a great example of a city which is not only welcoming to the LGBT market but actively engaged with this community. They have a great LGBT scene and this is celebrated most prominently with their Winter Pride Christmas market. This market is Europe’s only LGBT specific Christmas market and really shows the destination taking this community seriously and being LGBT friendly (without the inverted commas).
Pro tip: For hotels, ensure that all staff are fully trained and policies are in place to make sure that no LGBT member feels unwelcome. Likewise, embrace the lively LGBT quarters in your destination and make information about these venues or events accessible to LGBT guests
4. Create that ‘spark’ in your relationship with LGBT media
Taking the time to build strong and long-lasting relationships with journalists and key media in LGBT publications will be a big stepping stone to succeed in this market.
As LGBT members ourselves, we love reading publications which give us an honest view of what travelling to a hotel or destination as an LGBT consumer is like. With high circulations to a highly targeted reader base (DIVA, Gay Times, Attitude and OutThere all have circulations over 50,000) – LGBT publications should not be overlooked by any travel brand wanting to engage with this market.
Our friends at DIVA magazine have been on Lemongrass press trips with us and we love sending them out to our clients. DIVA Staff Writer Danielle Mustarde shared with us her views on working with tourist boards and hotels:
“Both tourist boards and hotels should be actively engaging with LGBTQ publications. By only marketing to heteronormative publications, they could be excluding large numbers of the UK’s vast and diverse LGBTQ communities”
Having these relationships with the media will mean press trip opportunities that benefit both you as the hotel and the publication:
“by offering press trips, both parties will benefit. Publications get richer and more authentic editorial content which readers are more likely to engage with, and thus tourist boards and hotels are more likely to reach audiences in an authentic way”
— Danielle Mustarde
Harnessing the power of those relationships will give you a direct connection to the LGBT community and allow you to deliver an authentic message.
Pro tip: Don’t leave out LGBT publications from your press trip wish lists. Establish good relationships with key writers and influencers in this sector
5. Know your LGBT Tour Operators
The LGBT market responds positively to businesses that actively show a willingness to accept and respect them; a recent survey by CMI with the IGLTA (International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association) showed that around 50% of LGBT travellers regard LGBT-friendliness as a priority when choosing hotels. In recent years this has led to the formation of new LGBT-friendly tour operators and concierge services, primarily servicing the community.
At Lemongrass, we work closely with these operators to showcase our clients and build strong relationships with their sales teams. One of these is OutofOffice.com – an expanding LGBT travel concierge who now have offices in London and Brighton.
Having invited their team on previous FAM trips and meeting with them regularly to ensure their product knowledge is strong – we have been able to assist on numerous enquiries across our clients.
“It’s so important for destinations and hotels to consider the LGBT market at the heart of their marketing. A lucrative segment, who are shown to spend more in resort, the LGBT market is less conscious of travel seasons and often like travelling during shoulder season. It therefore makes sense both from a business perspective and ethical perspective to include this segment in all business decisions”
—Darren Burn, Founder and Managing Director of OutOfOffice.com
Our close relationship with such operators and businesses has given them confidence in our commitment to ensuring the LGBT travelling market feel welcome to stay with our clients, in turn allowing our clients to open up to a market with considerable disposable income.
Pro tip: Make sure your sales strategy considers niche and specialist operators and agents
6. Keep up with key trends
It is very likely that you are already keeping up with key travel trends and local news, but are you currently reading the posts by TTG LGBT, or flipping through magazines like DIVA, OutThere or Attitude every now and then?
Beyond trends, it’s important to also be aware of any changes in LGBT policies and laws and regulations.
If you feel like you don’t know where to start, maybe just try to give certain publications like the ones mentioned above a read once a month.
There are other easy ways of keeping on top of what is happening in the industry by joining certain online communities. TTG were the first to have a dedicated segment to the LGBT community and ‘TTG LGBT’ is priceless when it comes to building key relationships in this area and just keeping on top of the latest topics. It’s well worth attending their debates and conferences or even just one of their drink networking events.
Pro tip: Read the latest news and legislation changes once a month to keep up to date
7. Immerse yourself in the community
And finally, it is important to remember that while there are incredible commercial benefits in opening up to the LGBT travelling market, it is crucial to remember the importance of inclusion and that there is still great struggle for acceptance around the world for the LGBT community.
Becoming an LGBT-friendly destination or hotel is a huge step forward, but the LGBT market is wise to commercial hands trying to exploit them (“pinkwashing”).
We consult our clients on how to engage appropriately with bodies such as the IGLTA and enjoy direct connections with board members there. This allows us to advise our clients on how best to have a presence within the LGBT community that counts.