|Kyoto’s Serene Golden Pavilion|
On the heels of New York’s passing of the gay marriage bill last month, Travel Agent sought out some top sellers of gay travel to get the scoop on what you need to know to better capitalize on this niche market. Marc Kassouf and S. Nathan DePetris, owners of PRIDE Travel in Long Beach, CA, shared some keen insights with us.
“The way we look at booking gay travel is to start with a base set of questions,” Kassouf says. “Regardless of the bottom line, clients will come back to us and send us new business if we create a quality experience.” Kassouf and DePetris first determine whether a gay or lesbian client is looking for Celebratory Travel or Exploratory Travel.
“Celebratory Travel is designed to celebrate one’s gay or lesbian identity at any of the world’s circuit parties, pride festivals or on full-charter gay and lesbian cruises and tours. These are clients who want a complete experience centered around them, celebrating who they are while traveling,” says Kassouf.
With Exploratory Travel, the destination is the main draw but clients would like to experience the local LGBT scene. Kassouf adds, “These clients tend to forge their own way and prefer off-the-beaten-path destinations and exotic experiences.”
|Rio’s lively Carnival|
After determining the type of trip your client is going on, Kassouf and DePetris look into whether the destination is friendly toward, or accepting of, gay or lesbian couples. They find out about bedding arrangements at properties and nightlife available for the LGBT client. Since there are many needs specific to this type of travel, Kassouf and DePetris recommend that agents seek advice from other agents whose specialty is LGBT travel or reach out to the International Gay Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).
While the general needs and desires of gay and lesbian travelers are similar, there are some nuances. Kassouf notes that, much like mainstream women travelers, “lesbians love girl getaways” and often seek venues apart from the gay men’s celebrations.
In terms of finding the right destination for LGBT travelers, DePetris suggests major cities that “often have LGBT communities…where clients can experience the local scene.” In fact, there has been a rise in gay and lesbian travel to New York due to the passing of the state’s gay marriage bill. Other top destinations include Thailand, more specifically for male travelers, and Japan, which is the rising Asian LGBT destination. Kassouf and DePetris recommend Magnet Tours in Tokyo, which offers unique and exciting tours of the country for the gay and lesbian traveler.
“Many Latin countries are making huge efforts to draw in LGBT visitors,” says Kassouf. “Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City have been welcoming destinations for decades, but now the rest of Mexico is making strong headway into the equality movement.” Brazil is growing as a proponent of gay travel and will host next year’s IGLTA World Conference. Buenos Aires also has earned the reputation as a welcoming party town for gays and lesbians.