Agents: Cost Could Be Influencing the LGBT Millennial Market in Hawaii

Hawaii
Photo by Joe Pike

Hawaii is too expensive and perhaps too commercial for LGBT Millennials, according to several Hawaii specialists Travel Agent recently spoke with.

On the heels of a recent Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) study that revealed a lot of room for Hawaii to grow among the Millennial LGBT market, we gathered some professional opinions on why there aren’t more LGBT Millennials vacationing to the Aloha State.

According to the study, "There are two reasons for a fall off for Millennial past travel to Hawaii: First is the cost of a Hawaii vacation is relatively expensive; second is that Millennial gay men are especially attracted to urban core vacations."

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And the advisors we spoke to agreed.

“We get a lot of inquiries for Hawaii from the Millennial/LGBT clientele, however, cost is the biggest factor holding back these clients from going there,” says Ian Petrulli, vice president of Holiday Travel International. “Millennials haven’t started making a ton of money yet, and if they have, they more than likely are swimming in student loan debt.”

Twenty-seven percent of LGBT Americans who participated in the recent HTA study on LGBT tourism expressed interest in visiting Hawaii in the next two years. Although 70 percent of all those who participated in the study said they were aware that Hawaii is an LGBT-friendly destination, the study shows a lull in LGBT Millennials visiting the Aloha State.

And those findings are especially surprising when you consider that Hawaii tourism officials were expecting a major increase from the LGBT weddings and honeymoons market since Hawaii legalized same-sex marriage back in 2013. However, the study further explains why the LGBT marriage market didn't explode the way some experts thought it would.

"Since the United States Supreme Court ruling, the first wave of same-sex couples getting married is now complete," according to the findings. "Within this research group, 35 percent of the men and 58 percent of the women were already married. Further, 73 percent of LGBT parents were married. Much attention is placed on same-sex marriage, which is seen as a 'new market' to many. In reality, marriage has been available to American same-sex couples, in waves, for 12 years (starting in Massachusetts)."

“When I present clients a price for Hawaii, and let them know that they will have to spend additional money on food, drinks and resort fees, they get severe sticker shock,” says Petrulli. “Meanwhile, places like Cancun/Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta are similarly priced, provide a better hotel, are all-inclusive, and similarly very gay friendly. The choice becomes obvious for the client."

Daniel Nahoopii, HTA's director of tourism research, said in a statement that the studies show LGBT Millennials offer the greatest potential for growth, especially from Asia. In fact, the study points out that an estimated 65 million LGBT Chinese live in Mainland China and have a purchasing power of $470 billion.

According to the study, "For Millennials, future travel means something different, and is often an indication of interest in a destination. Future travel interest to Hawaii by LGBT Millennials is reasonably strong, compared to actual travel. To encourage actual booking, low cost air is probably the most import driver. Millennials will find appropriately-priced accommodations once booking their flight."

But other agents say the challenges for the LGBT market visiting Hawaii go beyond money.

“Just look at the most popular communities in most cities that have a large LGBT population,” says Brianna Glenn of Milk + Honey Travels. “More often than not, this is where you are finding the new and unique eateries, cafes, and places to hang.”

And while Glenn also acknowledges that cost could play into the decision not to visit, she says LGBT clients and Millennial clients in general will pay the right price to discover something new.

“Hawaii is an established tourist destination that is very popular with an older generation as well as families,” says Glenn. “While it is undeniably beautiful and a great place to vacation, it doesn't appeal as heavily to the LGBT community as much as it does for those looking for the more traditional, established, and tourist heavy destinations. These things also cause Hawaii to be a more expensive destination. I think (Millennials) are willing to pay for the right experience somewhere that is a bit more undiscovered, where their dollar might stretch a little further."

According to the study, marketing products that appeal to LGBT travelers is key to increasing loyalty to the Hawaiian Islands. For example, the studies found that LGBT travelers would be highly likely to visit Hawaii for an LBGT multi-island cruise or outdoor adventure week, and they prefer nightclubs and bars catering to Hawaii’s LGBT community.

However, the research showed such a preference does not exist for activities like a dinner cruise, catamaran sail, luau, tour, and hikes.

"I believe it's because it's perceived as being commercialized and the world is becoming smaller with direct routes elsewhere,” says Joshua Smith, president of Global Citizen Journeys. “With the influx of Chinese and Middle Eastern carriers, it can be similar in cost to travel elsewhere. In addition, there is the perception of Hawaii being increasingly more suitable for the family market, which Millennials and the LGBT communities would gravitate away from.”

Commissioned by HTA’s Tourism Research Division and conducted by Community Marketing & Insights, a San Francisco-based firm specializing in LGBT consumer research, the studies are the first done on behalf of the State of Hawaii to analyze LGBT travel to the Hawaiian Islands.

Visit www.hawaiitourismauthority.org and keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all your latest travel news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent’s Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike and Instagram @pike5260.

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