Travel Agent sat down with popular gay agent, Carlos Melia of First in Service Travel, an agency based in New York, who told us about the Luxury Gay Travel Network (LGTN) that he launched with hopes of creating a database of gay agents looking network with each other and suppliers looking to tap into the market.
“I was going to all these shows throughout the year and saw that everyone was now doing gay travel, but general gay travel,” says Melia. “But no one is targeting the luxury market.”
According to Melia, the LGTN is going to be an association based in New York that will gather the best gay advisors and members of the press from the community.
“Let’s says you are the sales rep for the Four Seasons and you are coming from Thailand and they tell you to go and see all of the agencies and also target all the gay markets as well,” says Melia. “Well, they can walk into Tzell, into Protravel or Valerie Wilson and have no clue who is gay and who is not. We are going to gather these people and have them online with their profiles and contacts information for them. And once a month, I want to do a mixer or a cocktail or a fam trip or a press trip or a site inspection where hotels can contact them in one room.”
While membership for agents is free, they need to be either invited by Melia or referred to by another member. Also, agents are expected to attend roughly 70 percent of all LGTN events or they will be asked to leave. Suppliers will be charged anywhere from $500 to $1,500 a year depending on whether they want Standard, Gold or Centurion level membership.
Standard membership costs $500 per year, per member and includes the publishing of a public profile on the site with a brief description, web link and contact information; full access to the private profiles of the network’s leading travel and press members; the opportunity to host at least one of the network’s annual events and inclusion in the itinerary of one of the network’s hosted fam/press trips. Lastly, Standard members will randomly have their news and press releases published on the network’s blog, social media networks and /or the network’s E-newsletter.
Gold membership costs $800 per year, per member and includes all of the same privileges as a Standard membership in addition to listing the member as an official partner of the network, allowing the member to publish three posts a year on the network’s blog or social media networks and allowing three posts a year by the member in the network’s E-newsletter.
The Centurion membership costs $1,000 per year, per person and includes all Standard and Gold membership benefits as well as the publishing of an advertising banner on the network’s site or blog and two direct mailings a year to the network’s full database.
Melia already has about 10 suppliers on board including some include Hotel Ritz Madrid by Orient Express and La Samana. He also has roughly 20 agents signed up already.
“I basically want to connect everyone,” he says. “I am becoming the person between the mainstream luxury services and these agents. If this works, my idea for the future would be to create something similar to Virtuoso or Signature for the gay world where hotels give extra amenities for the gay network.”
Melia says although the mixers and other events will be in New York, he is open to targeting members from around the world.
“What I can provide is the loyalty and the recognition that I have worldwide,” he says. “So, brands know that if they partner with me, I will be a good ambassador for them around the world.”