Developing the LGBT Tourism Market

Author: Guest Richard Cutting-Miller, Resonance Consultancy Ltd.
Posted: April 01, 2014
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Research released a little over a year ago by Out Now Consulting at World Travel Market forecasted that the global potential value of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) leisure travel market was set to reach a record USD$181 billion in 2013. The U.S. LGBT market was expected to take the lion’s share at $52.3 billion, or 28.9%, with Brazil, Japan, France and the UK following behind.

Although the economics of the LGBT tourism market have been known for some time, and even the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) published its first report on LGBT Tourism in 2012, only a few destinations have understood the enormous opportunity and have put in place strategies, plans, operations and budgets to make it happen.

How can a destination take advantage of this enormous opportunity and build a LBGT business? Do you slap a rainbow flag on your website and door fronts and call it a day? What more does it take?

Although there’s lots of market development advice and consultants out there to help you figure it out how to tap the big spending Chinese market or the shoppers from Brazil, the LBGT consultants and “how to guides” are few and far between. The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel and spend a big chuck of your marketing budget to hire consultants. Travel Gay Canada has done much of the work for you and they’re giving it away for free (well almost) to anyone that asks.

Travel Gay Canada is Canada’s national gay and lesbian tourism industry association. Its goal is to provide gay and lesbian travelers with products and services that meet their needs and expectations, and to better inform them of the unique and vast travel opportunities and experiences available within Canada.

As a tourism consultant who has worked in Canada, mostly recently producing the Tourism Master Plan for Vancouver, I’m amazed and encouraged by the amount of terrific research and educational materials available for tourism businesses and destinations in that country. Even better, in most cases, by changing the references from Canada to “Timbuktu” you can often apply Canada’s knowledge and expertise to the issue or question at hand in your destination and get great results.

I encourage destinations that are interested in building their LBGT tourism business to take a look at Travel Gay Canada’s “LGBT Travel Market Guide & Development Toolkit.” The Guide and Toolkit assists destinations and businesses in becoming LGBT market ready.

The Toolkit section of the document is focused on destination assessment and four essential elements to being LGBT market ready:

  • Having an engaged local community
  • Offering unique products and experiences
  • Providing dedicated investment and planning
  • Implementing targeted marketing and promotional activities

Partnership Development and Community Outreach focuses on the active involvement and participation from both the local community and industry stakeholders.

Delivering Quality Service – LGBT Positive Space Training ensures that LGBT customers feel welcome and accepted, and are served in a way that meets their expectations.

Marketing: Building the Strategy starts with setting goals that help you answer two questions: “What do we want to get out of this?” and “Why are we doing this?” Follows are standard but focused marketing tasks associated with LGBT market considerations – product, price, packaging, distribution, promotion and media relations.

Measurement Tools acknowledge that measuring the impact and success of a LGBT strategy is not easy, but it is important to put some context behind your activities to evaluate your strategy.

The report spells out the destination To-Do’s for each section in great detail. It’s all great advice and a good first step to realizing the opportunity of the LGBT market.