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Looking twice again at gay and lesbian tourism

Gay travel is not always perceived as a proper travel market. Many offices of tourism -especially in Asia or Africa- continue to look at gay and lesbian markets as a pure sexual tourism travel segment…

Gay travel is not always perceived as a proper travel market. Many offices of tourism -especially in Asia or Africa- continue to look at gay and lesbian markets as a pure sexual tourism travel segment. This is a complete wrong assessment: GLBT (GLBT for Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transvestite) generally have sophisticated or/and cultural needs and are high spenders on their vacation spot.

ITB in Berlin has been for many years a strong advocate for Gay and Lesbian travel. A dedicated area has been attributed to GLBT travel companies or destinations since 2003 recognizing the increased importance of gay tourism for many cities. They were a dozen of companies and NTOs this year while a conference was also organised to while a seminar was dedicated to GLBT strategies in tourism. Among the speakers present at the forum were Philip Heylen, Vice Mayor for Culture and Tourism of Antwerp, Stephen Murray-Smith, Gay-Market Sales Manager for the Florida Keys Tourist Development Council, Marco Antonio de Britto Lomanto, Director of Products and Tourist Destinations for the Brazilian Tourism Board EMBRATUR and Tom Roth, President & Founder of Community Marketing. In the ITB gay and lesbian travel section were present for the first time EMBRATUR as well as the tour operator Dertour with its first dedicated catalogue for gay travellers.

They are no data existing on the total number of LGBT travellers. However statistics have been published on generated revenues from the gay travel market. Various research companies put LGBT Travel market’s spending at over US$ 160 billion a year. A study from CMI consulting looking at LGBT travel behaviours in the US market shows that gay and lesbian market tends to travel twice as much as the main stream traveller. Leisure travel represents three trips per year compared to 1.5 trip for main stream travellers. Total trips for LGBT come at six per year compared to four for main stream travellers. Travel is the biggest segment in purchasing behaviour among GLBT profiles topping 55% of all answers.

They are two more elements speaking in favour of a better promotion  to the gay market. GLBT holiday makers tend to spend more than their straight counterparts. For the USA, studies demonstrate that on average 29% of GLBT travellers spent in 2011 more than US$ 2,000 on their annual vacation while another 33% spent more than US$ 1,000.  In times of recession, GLBT travel market appears to be resilient due to higher income on average but also due to spending habits which favour leisure expenditure, travel products and services. A study conducted by the city of Philadelphia shows that GLBT travellers spent on average 57% more in 2011 than their straight counterparts or US$ 878 against US$ 559. In 2004, Philadelphia launched a dedicated program to promote tourism to the GLBT community. It was demonstrated that for each dollar invested into marketing, the return on investment (ROI) came at U$$ 153, mostly spent on hotels, F&B and shops.

Another positive evaluation for the GLBT market is the variety of activities that this niche market generates with communities activities and culture being also highly favoured and not only gay-oriented activities. In a survey conducted among close to 40,000 GLBT respondents in 18 countries conducted by consulting group Out Now Global (based in Australia and Holland) in early 2011, a list of the most desirable destinations for gay and lesbian travellers has been established. To the question ‘which country or city are you planning to visit for their holidays in the next three years?’, Europe is getting the most ranking. In the six top destinations, France, Spain, the UK, Italy and Germany were only surpassed by the USA.

CMI worldwide LGBT market research  to the question “When travelling to a city, how likely are you to participate to the following?” (in %)

(Source: CMI)

Global top 20 LGBT holiday city destinations  
(Maximum rating to be attributed is 180)  
New York 179
Sydney 177
Rio 173
Paris 168
San Francisco 165
London 156
Buenos Aires 154
Tokyo 148
Hong Kong  128
Melbourne  127
Los Angeles 126
Amsterdam 124
São Paulo 121
Barcelona 112
Las Vegas 109
Cancun 102
Mexico City 101
Cape Town 99
Rome 98
Berlin 95
(Source: Out Now Global)  
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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.