Travel specialists disclose what this ever-expanding market is looking for.
The LGBTQ travel market is a powerful one but still an unknown quantity for many agents. Travel advisors interested in tapping into this ever-expanding market need to know—in the same way they would need to know about any other market segment—LGBTQ clients’ travel preferences and desires.
That often boils down to the recognition that LGBTQ travelers want the same thing as other travelers, said John Tanzella, president and CEO of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association: “One of the most important things is to recognize the similarities, not the differences”.
“LGBTQ travelers, like everyone, want to feel safe and welcomed wherever they go in the world. Beyond that, they’re interested in culture, history, gastronomy, nightlife and events like everyone else. The biggest difference is that many countries have laws that discriminate against us or our relationships, so we have to be mindful of this in many parts of the world.”
Jennifer Mercado of Los Angeles-based Cassis Travel, a Virtuoso agency, also stressed the importance of addressing destination issues: The biggest difference is being aware of the LGBT climate in different destinations.
“A common travel concern for anyone is safety, but when working with the LGBT market, the issue of safety is expanded. You address any everyday fears they may have and also the fear of being discriminated against and potentially put in harm’s way because of their lifestyle.”
Mercado recommended that agents familiarize themselves with different destinations’ laws: Be aware of the laws, respect them and become knowledgeable about destinations that treat LGBT citizens as equals.
“A lot of hotels, tour operators and destinations are making a big push into the LGBT market. These organizations want travelers and agents to know that anyone who stays with them will feel comfortable and will be treated equally and with respect.”
The LGBTQ market, not surprisingly, is multifaceted when it comes to individual travelers.
“You have several different market segments under LGBTQ, which can be defined and analyzed by age, religion, nationality, etc.,” said Carlos Melia of New York City-based First in Service Travel, a Virtuoso agency. “It’s very difficult to describe it as a whole, but the common needs are tolerance, safety and the chance to interact with the local LGBTQ community in the destination they are visiting.”
As with any other group of clients, qualifying is paramount.
“Of course, each group differs, just as within the straight community,” Melia added. “As a gay traveler myself, I had certain needs when I was in my twenties, and those changed over the years, not only as I grew older but also as society changed and evolved.”
Melia said that today’s LGBTQ clients like to travel in a mainstream world. That’s even more true when you cater to the luxury segment. Luxury LGBTQ travelers care exactly about the same things that any other travelers do, whether they are traveling solo, with their husbands or wives or as an LGBTQ family with their children.
The LGBTQ market has indeed changed, said Dane Steele Green of New York City-based Steele Luxury Travel. When Green started his agency 10 years ago, he focused on the LGBT community as a new niche market.
“Our clients at the time were looking for sheltered and coddled experiences that offered them a safe nest to experience the world. Flash forward six years, the LGBT market has changed,” he said. “The voice and idea of the gay traveler has changed from gay-friendly destinations to all global destinations. The gay traveler is looking for culturally rich, exclusive and top-of-the-line experiences, just like any other luxury traveler would.”
Agents interested in serving LGBTQ clients need to understand the varying needs of individual gay clients, Melia said:
“Many points differentiate each group, and within each are several layers of segments of LGBTQ travelers. There are generational differences. For example, a gay traveler in his 70s or 80s has a different view of gay travel than a gay traveler in his 30s or 40s.”
In Melia’s opinion, the best way to cater to the needs of LGBTQ travelers is simply to approach them as you would any client: “Break down barriers, drop any prejudice, engage in open and honest conversations, and create an empathetic relationship. LGBTQs are millennials, they are adventure travelers, they are golfers, and they are mothers and fathers. Do not focus simply on the concept of LGBTQ.”
Learning About the LGBTQ Market
Agents interested in educating themselves on the LGBTQ market should consider taking advantage of resources offered by the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).
The IGLTA’s annual convention includes two days of educational sessions on topics ranging from LGBTQ travel trends to social media strategies, said IGLTA President and CEO John Tanzella. The association also participates in sessions on the LGBTQ market at mainstream tradeshows around the world and produces a weekly eNewsletter.
Its foundation conducts research into the market, most recently in collaboration with the U.N. World Travel Organization on the Second Global Report on LGBT Tourism, and an IGLTA Buyer Survey with Penn State University. These free resources are available at iglta.org/research.
Another resource is the Luxury Gay Travel Network, at www.lgtnetwork.org, founded by Carlos Melia, First in Service Travel, New York City. The group helps mainstream suppliers network with luxury travel advisors, press, concierges and influencers catering to the LGBTQ market either exclusively or as one of their market niches.
Source: Travel Pulse