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
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|~
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
Gay Travel Specialists
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.
800-999-2608 or 408-286-2633; [email protected], www.rainbowtraveler.com