Serving Travel Niches: The Gay Market

The pressures of making a profit in an era of commission caps and cuts has led more travel agencies to consider serving niche markets that often require the help of an expert—travel agents. One of those niches that has received increased attention from the travel trade press in the last two to three years is the gay market.  Stanley C. Plog

This niche is growing in size, and some cruises and tours now are designed to appeal exclusively to gay travelers. But is it a good market for you? Can you make money serving this group?

Most estimates suggest that gay people comprise from two and a half to four or five percent of the total adult population. The correct number is probably at the higher end of that range, but either way, it's a small number. So, you must make certain that your agency location could draw a sufficient number of this population through your doors, or that you know how to set up a web site that would attract them.

The accompanying chart addresses questions about the viability of this market. Taken from the 2005 data of the very large annual American Traveler Survey (now produced by TNS Travel Services), it compares travel characteristics of gay people with the broad travel market of all U.S. adults. On all dimensions, the data suggest that the gay market can be very profitable for those who know how to reach this community. Travel Characteristics of Gay Market

The strong conclusion from these data is that the gay travel market offers rich potential for travel agencies that believe they can tap this group—either because they are located in an area with a concentration of gays, or they have a way of reaching the gay market with an effective marketing program.

Some considerations to think about if your agency is going to focus on this market:

Always make these customers feel special, wanted and important by you and your staff.

Sell up on most products and services. Members of this market especially enjoy luxury hotels, upscale cruises and high-end tours. You obviously will make more money with that policy, and they will be happier with your services.

Constantly look for new packages and tours that are gay-friendly and go to new and unique destinations. More than most travelers, they want to have something to talk about with friends after they return. More market characteristics

Establish a recognition or rewards system for referrals. Because it is a tight community, they have lots of friends and can refer many prospects to you if they appreciate the services you provided.

Obviously, the gay market can't be served by all travel agencies. But if you believe you can attract a sufficient number of clients, the chances for growth and profitability are strong. You don't have to focus on it entirely, but your in-house specialists should be very well-trained.

Home-based agents can also focus on this group if they are willing to devote the time and effort necessary to understand the unique needs of gay travelers.


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