Gay and Lesbian Travel

There are travel agents to whom it's never occurred to reach out to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) market, and there are those who have opted not to tap this specialized group for personal reasons. To the former, we say it's time to wake up and to the latter, get over it—you are missing out on a lucrative niche. 

An LGBT Pride street festival in Provincetown, MA

An LGBT Pride street festival in Provincetown, MA

According to the National Tour Association (www.nta.com), this market segment enjoys traveling and has the income to do it, more so than the mainstream market. Studies have shown two trends that may explain this. One, in general, gay and lesbian consumers are better educated than mainstream consumers (and therefore have better-paying jobs). Two, gay couples are less likely to have children in the household. These two things equal more discretionary income and free time, which means more business for travel agents. There is, in fact, a boom in gay travel globally.

The Specialist, a marketing newsletter for the LGBT travel industry, reported that gay travelers represent a $54.1 billion market, or about 10 percent of overall spend by U.S. travelers. A 2001 study conducted within the gay community showed that 72 percent of respondents take one or more international vacations per year, versus the national average of 9 percent. A 2006 study by Harris Interactive, Travel Industry Association and Witeck-Combs Communications showed that gay men, in particular, spend about one-third more on their total trip expenses than heterosexuals.

Finding the Right Resources

The one important factor, however, is that gay travelers prefer to deal with gay-friendly tour operators and establishments. Agents will not get far with this clientele by simply offering them mainstream packages. The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (www.iglta|~www.iglta/) recognizes the growing desire within the gay community to travel. Founded in 1983, the organization, which has more than 1,000 members, is committed to promoting and educating the travel industry on gay and lesbian tourism. To fully understand this market's needs and find the best options for gay clients, joining an organization like this one will help you make the right decisions.

The IGLTA's 25th Annual Convention will be held in Las Vegas, April 30-May 4, at the Flamingo Hotel & Casino. To book, call 702-733-3111 or visit www.flamingolasvegas.com and use the code SFGLT8 to get the special attendee rate of $139 per night. There will also be a post-convention fam trip to Palm Springs, May 4-May 6. E-mail [email protected].[PAGE-BREAK]

Gay Travel Specialists

Here is a list of LGBT tour operators to get you started in this hot-ticket niche:

Alyson Adventures
800-825-9766 or 305-296-9935,
[email protected], www.alysonadventures.com

Atlantis Events
310-859-8800 or 800.628.5268 (reservations), [email protected], www.atlantisevents.com; agents can register.

Capitol Hill Travel
206-726-8996, [email protected],
www.capitolhilltravel.com

Coda International Tours
888-677-2632, [email protected],
www.coda-tours.com

Now Voyager
415-626-1169, www.nowvoyager.com

Olivia
800-631-6277, ext. 550, www.olivia.com; agents can register. Olivia pays 10 percent commission on all trip sales and 5 percent on vacation stretchers. Commissions are paid within 30 days of a trip’s departure.

Rainbow Travel
800-999-2608 or 408-286-2633; [email protected], www.rainbowtraveler.com

Spirit Journeys
800-754-1875 or 828-258-8880,
[email protected], www.spiritjourneys.com

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