Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gay Marketing: How to Reach the Gay & Lesbian Travel Market

The last posting I talked about the gay and lesbian travel market, and why it’s a market worth targeting.  So now that you’re convinced this is a market your business wants to enter, the question now is “How do you do it?”  Deciding to enter the market is a big step, and making sure you do it right is critical. 

There are three main areas to consider when reaching the gay and lesbian travel market: Promotions, Relations, and Community Involvement.


As with any market, the options and opportunities for ways to promote your business are numerous, and the selection of the right methods is important.  Deciding upon web and print advertising, the production of collateral, and participating in consumer trade shows are all elements that must be done for any niche market.

If you’re going to target the gay and lesbian travel market, you need to show that you’re committed to them.  This market, similar to any market, wants to know that the products and services being promoted are specific to them.  You can achieve this by developing targeted collateral and advertising, using images and copy that speak directly to them.  The gay and lesbian consumer is savvy, and knows when a company is just out to grab a piece of the ‘pink dollar’, and when the company is truly committed to the market.

As a side note, showing you’re committed also means that you must be willing to be in the marketplace for longer than 3 weeks.  I would recommend nothing less than a year, but ideally a three-year commitment.  You can’t expect to see results overnight. 

The web provides an amazing opportunity to reach the gay and lesbian traveller.  The first way is through your business’s own website.  As with any of your print materials, show the market that your company is truly committed to them by including specific content on your site.  A great example of a hotel company that has implemented this on their consumer site is Kimpton, which offers dedicated packages and information for the gay and lesbian traveller, as well as information on Kimpton’s commitment to diversity within the company.

The second way is to get listed onto other gay and lesbian travel sites.  There is a wealth of sites that you can promote your business, whether through banner ads or as directory listings.  With the expansion of gay and lesbian internet marketing, it’s extremely easy and valuable for companies to leverage the web (after all, over 50% of Canadian gay and lesbian adult travellers use gay-specific websites for planning future leisure travel). 

As with any market, it’s important for you to speak directly with the gay and lesbian travel market.  There are opportunities available to you to do this by attending various consumer shows and events.  Numerous cities host events like Pride, gay and lesbian lifestyle shows and wedding shows which provide a great opportunity for you to get in front of the market that you’ve decided to try to capture.  Take advantage of it.

To help you get a better understanding of the gay and lesbian market, there are also a variety of LGBT specific conferences that take place throughout North America.  Each year, IGLTA, Community Marketing, and Travel Gay Canada each hosts a gay and lesbian travel conference.  For businesses just entering the market, or for those that have been in the market for years, these provide a valuable source of information, assists in generating new ideas, and helps to promote your business to other key industry partners.


One of the most effective ways of creating awareness of your business is to work with gay and lesbian tour operators and travel agents.  Let travel agents know that your business is out there and that it caters to their gay clients.  Work with operators to have your business included in their packages.  Great, and simple, ways to do these are by joining organizations like IGLTA and by participating in trade opportunities provided by Travel Gay Canada. 

More and more you’re starting to see local and regional DMOs targeting the gay and lesbian travel market.  Halifax is one of the more recent cities that has aggressively entered the market.  Having your DMO enter the market provides you a great opportunity to participate in collective initiatives such as co-op advertising, promotions, and fam trips.  These partnerships can help you engage in activities that you may have not been able to do on your own.

It’s also interesting to note that this can also work in the reverse, where the local hotels and businesses need to encourage the DMO to enter the market and thereby support your activities.  Examples of this can be seen throughout the world.  An example from the Turks & Caicos, where the government expressed concern over a gay cruise that was allowed to dock, shows that it’s important to have your local or federal DMO supportive of reaching the gay market, otherwise your efforts may be for not.

Community Involvement

The third way to successfully reach the market is by being active in your local gay and lesbian community.  By sponsoring local activities, you are showing that your business is proud and committed to being a part of the gay and lesbian community.  There is no shortage of events and organizations that need support and sponsorship, which can often be in either contra or cash contributions.

Getting involved with local groups, such as your regional Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, can provide a valuable source of information and assistance to you.  You’ll get an opportunity to network with other businesses within the gay market, and enhance your reach within the market.

A great way to ensure successful community involvement is to dedicate a set percentage of you annual marketing budget to it.  Remember: the gay and lesbian community supports those that support them.

Are you ready?
So you now know the steps in how to best reach the gay and lesbian market, but are you truly ready to welcome them?  In my next post, I’ll talk about the most important element in reaching the gay and lesbian market: ensuring their experiences meet their expectations (in other words, what YOU promised them by doing all the aforementioned marketing approaches) through training and product development.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Diversifying Markets: The Gay & Lesbian Opportunity

The hotel industry, and the tourism industry in general, has changed dramatically over the last several years.  Everything from war, terrorism, the economy, and a variety of other negative travel influences have made the industry much more volatile and challenging than ever before.  The increasingly competitive nature of the hotel industry has made the fight for market share even tougher, and hotels have started to see the need to find new ways to grow that diminishing share by ensuring differentiation.

One way for hoteliers to grow their market share is through diversification in their target markets.  Hoteliers and the tourism industry need to look at alternative sources to tap into and to draw on.

The gay and lesbian travel market is one market that hotels and other tourism-based companies have, in general, overlooked, or simply chose to ignore, for too long
Most hoteliers understand the importance of diversifying their markets, but many aren’t completely sold on the gay and lesbian market.  Here are three main reasons why hotels should choose to target this market:

  • Size: the North American gay and lesbian travel market is worth an estimated $80 billion per year.  Research also shows that this market is more likely to take leisure trips and spends more when travelling.
  • Resilience: gay and lesbian travellers have proven to be less adverse to negative travel conditions.  For instance, shortly following 9/11 and SARS, they had higher propensity to start travelling again compared to the heterosexual travel market.  Even now, during the downturn in the economy, they still budget more discretionary dollars to spend on travel then heterosexuals. 
  • Loyalty: gay and lesbian travellers seek travel destinations and businesses that they know are safe and inviting for them, and they support those businesses that support them. 

Looking closer at the demographics and travel habits of gay and lesbian travellers, it’s easy to see that, for many hotel properties, this market fits into their overall target market.  Research has shown that the average US gay traveller spent 10 nights in a hotel while on leisure trips.  For both Canadian and US gay and lesbian travellers, price was the top motivator when selecting a hotel, with both location and the “gay friendliness” of the hotel also being strong motivators.

Misconceptions about the gay and lesbian market may deter some hotels from targeting them.  By being more aware of the market, hotels can overcome these misconceptions.  This understanding is also critical for identifying the market’s needs.  As with any market, hoteliers need to understand the gay and lesbian traveller before they can expect to reach them and retain them. 

So what is the gay and lesbian travel market looking for?  In essence, gay and lesbian travellers demand the same product and engages in similar activities as heterosexual travellers; they behave in every respect the same as general market travelers, including in how and by what they are motivated.  But they expect that their experience will be safe and open to them.  If you want to attract the gay and lesbian traveller, you have to demonstrate to them that they are accepted, and that you can offer everything that they need.  Cost, safety, and “gay” reputation are important considerations when they do their travel planning. 

It’s important to keep in mind that not all gay and lesbian travellers are the same; there are sub segments defined by gender, region, life stage, and so on.  As with any other market segment, hotels must understand which sub segment they are targeting and specifically how to meet the needs of these different groups.

As well, as with traditional markets, new opportunities within the gay and lesbian market will continue to become available, such as same-sex marriage and the new business that it created.  Hotels have the chance to tap into these new opportunities providing they are aware of them and actively engage in them.

Market diversification offers a wealth of opportunities for the hotel industry.  The gay and lesbian market is growing and becoming much more of an economic force.  Reaching out to the gay and lesbian traveller just makes good business sense.