As part of our Jan. 27 Travel Agent magazine cover story on the growing Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) market, we chatted with Richard Doumeng and learned that the current president of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) is pretty passionate about the Caribbean marketing to same-sex couples.
“The gay and lesbian market is a market that found us,” he says. “They come here in numbers and are treated very well when they do come here and yet we are still not targeting them. The Caribbean is truly missing out on a significant segment that is popular year after year and has incredible disposable income and wants to travel.”
But aside from a relatively small number of properties located in destinations such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten/St. Martin and Curacao, Doumeng says the Caribbean is still not aggressively targeting this market.
“I think the traditional Caribbean islands have perhaps let it be known that they don't want the market and while that needs to be respected, I wish that it would change,” he says. “I hope someday, sooner than later, we as a region embrace marriage equality because we are missing a golden opportunity for great business. More and more of the world is ahead of us. The agent community is ahead of us. The journalists are ahead of us. The economists are ahead of us. The courts are ahead of us. We just need to catch up.”
And this is not the first time Travel Agent has raised the LGBT question to Caribbean tourism officials. In fact, back in July, we conducted a roundtable discussion in Barbados that included both agents, tourism board representatives and suppliers and the topic of LGBT travel to the Caribbean was brought up.
"Make (the Caribbean) gay," says Zachary Moses of HE Travel. "I’m serious. It’s not just for our clients but in general, especially in the United States right now, everything that is in the media is all about equality and that’s why I asked the question, 'Are you guys doing gay marriage yet?' If Barbados says, 'yeah, we’ll marry gay people,' you'll get a whole bunch of rich people, affluent people coming to Barbados just because they can get married and they don’t have to wait."
"When I think gay-friendly, I think about a place that allows anyone to come to a destination and have a complete experience without feeling compromised in any way," says Eusi Skeete, business development manager for the Barbados Tourism Authority. "I feel that anyone who comes to Barbados can feel comfortable enough in the destination and not be harassed—you can go out and certainly enjoy the good food, definitely be a part of the attractions, and have a good time. But I would still say that I don’t see us necessarily promoting Barbados as a gay-friendly destination in the near future. But at the same time, you won’t see us discriminate against anyone because of their difference of choices."
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