Summertime Travel

From surf to skies, it pays to market to LGBT jetsetters

With the days shortening – if just barely – hopeful travelers may be thinking of squeezing in one more summer vacation before settling in for the autumn grind.

But a vacation isn’t just a flight of fancy. It costs money. And nearly everyone wants to save a dollar – or hundreds – in the hunt for hotels, airline tickets and other travel expenses. For gay travelers, it may be a question of not only looking for savings, but for allies as well.

”Travel communities are one of the first to reach out to the gay and lesbian community. The question is not who does, but who doesn’t,” says David Paisley of San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc., which specializes in LGBT travel consumers.

When the U.S. first entered its recession, traveling as a whole took a dive. Fast-forward to today and Washington ranks No. 1 for gay business travel and No. 6 for gay leisure travel.

”Our research indicated that while gays and lesbians take about as many leisure trips as straight travelers, we take far more leisure trips to visit friends and family and also far more business trips,” Paisley says. ”Gay people travel more on the strength of these two categories.”

Jay Vilar, account executive at the Washington Business Journal, is one of those enthusiastic travelers. He’s quick to point out that he’s expecting gay-friendly skies – and hotels and all the rest.

”One of the first things I do when looking at travel destinations is to look to see if they’ve run any pro-LGBT advertising,” he says. ”When you pay for advertising, it partially means that you’re spending dollars to purposely brand yourself around a certain idea. The idea that they want gay travelers to come to a destination, hotel, restaurant, etc., means they’re ready to welcome you with open arms.”

Jonathan Morein, sales manager for LGBT travel agency Navigaytour, says there seems to be a unique fit between travel and the gay community.

”It’s not necessarily that gays and lesbians make more money than the mainstream,” says Morein. ”It’s that the gay and lesbian market tends to show more willingness to travel and to devote more income to travel.”

According to Community Marketing’s latest Gay and Lesbian Travel Report, gay and lesbian travelers are more likely to travel with friends or family as a means to stay connected than the straight community, traveling for longer periods of time and in larger groups. But even with travel, the community’s far from monolithic.

”Once they have children,” Paisley says, ”they are more attracted to kid-friendly hotels rather than gay-friendly. Their priority shifts to more of the mid-range and kid-friendly, compared to the luxury hotels.”

According to Community Marketing, 19 percent of same-sex female households reported having children, with 3 percent of same-sex male households identifying as parents.

Kids or not, it seems all travelers want a welcoming destination, obviously – particularly gays and lesbians.

”A destination’s reputation as being gay-friendly or gay-welcoming stands out as the No. 1 concern among gays and lesbians,” says Morein. ”So the destinations and businesses that know how to do this are in the best position to attract gay and lesbian travelers.”

Lufthansa German Airlines is one such business.

”Lufthansa launched an ongoing contest to win a trip to Europe to promote our new LGBT microsite,” says Suzanne Mannion of Newsmaker Group, Lufthansa’s external PR agency. ”Our experience tells us that the discerning traveler is always our best partner, and that their feedback is the engine that helps us maintain our quality of service at the highest possible level. As a whole, the LGBT community has a high degree of education and travel experience, so the decision to expand our profile in the community was a natural one.”

The Chamber means Business. For more information, visit caglcc.org.

Alexander Mills, CAGLCC intern, is a student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in print media.

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