Mexico and the destination wedding market are a long-standing match made in heaven. But destination weddings are spinning off their own sub-genres these days.
The LGBT market is one such niche-within-a-niche. And it’s garnering attention in Mexico.
This fall, the Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialists Association (DWHSA) is offering a new certification course on LGBT Destination Weddings. The one-day workshop will take place at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso in Playa del Carmen. It’s a joint effort in tandem with Bernadette Smith, the founder and president of the Gay Wedding Institute.
“It’s our first actual LGBT workshop, though a lot of our members have taken online webinars. We’re offering a full day of classroom training and discussion. It will cover a lot of the areas that agents should be familiar with, such as same-sex marriage trends, contract nuances and effective marketing,” Lisa Sheldon, DWHSA’s executive director, tells Travel Agent.
Jeni Chaffer, owner of Journeys Travel Inc. in Bourbonnais, IL has booked a few LGBT weddings in the past few years. She’s started to incorporate the specialty at bridal shows. And she plans to add some web pages to her site on the topic.
She sees the upcoming certification course as a win-win for her.
“Anyone can call themselves an agent these days. But there’s something different about handling destination weddings and honeymoons. I am a full-service agent and I feel very connected to my clients. I almost become part of the family. With the LGBT community, so many have waited a long time to take this step. I don’t want to make any mistakes or do something that could possibly offend a potential client. For me, there’s a huge bonus to this certification,” said Chaffer.
Destinations such as Cancun, says Chaffer, are at the forefront when it comes to making LGBT visitors feel welcome.
“Some properties even have LGBT specialists on their site to take care of any issues that might arise,” said Chaffer.
Indeed. Some properties, such as Grand Oasis Sens in the Hotel Zone, were pioneers in this regard. Once billed exclusively as an LGBT resort, it now caters to all adults 21 years of age and older. But, it’s still known informally as an LGBT stronghold with a fiercely loyal repeat clientele.
“Mexico has been very LGBT friendly for years. That’s not necessarily the case in all destinations in the Caribbean, for example. But we want clients to go to a place where they feel comfortable and safe. Cancun, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Merida, Ixtapa; any of those destinations are great. They offer so many different options, from haciendas in the Yucatan to a high rise party atmosphere in Cancun or a relaxing boutique hotel in Tulum,” said Sheldon.
On a national scale, the Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR) and VisitMexico are consulting with global LGBT marketing experts.
“Out Now has been pleased to assist VisitMexico with some initial strategic and creative work as it plans to better target the LGBT market. We presented to a number of tourism offices and SECTUR at FITA (the International Tourism Fair of the Americas) in Mexico City last year about the LGBT market. We also trained more than 900 staff for Marriott Resorts in Mexico. Our advice now would be to make sure that SECTUR understands the target LGBT customer and their concerns well and sets about to meet key concerns of those LGBT travelers,” Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now, tells Travel Agent.
It’s a good bet tourism officials will take Johnson’s advice to heart. According to SECTUR, the LGBT segment accounted for three million international visitors in 2014. They spent on average twice what other markets spend. And what couple won’t want to make their destination wedding especially memorable?
Sheldon is already making plans for the 2016 version of the LGBT certification training. This year’s event is at capacity, though she’s opened up a wait list.