Travel companies tune their gaydar

By Jim Burba and Bob Hayes
Jim BurbaWhy are more and more travel- and tourism-related companies specifically targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) travelers? We recently attended the 14th annual LGBT Tourism & Hospitality Conference, organized by Community Marketing, and here are some of the answers we got:

We're DINKs

At least that's what the marketing execs think we are. In case you don't remember what this acronym from the 1980s means, we'll tell you: double income, no kids.

As a working couple, we certainly fit the label, and it stands to reason that marketing dollars would be targeted to those who have more money to spend on travel.

Does double the money and no kid time mean we travel twice as much? Not necessarily, because we work a lot, but we do have the ability to get away more often.

Note to marketing execs: Please be aware that you will soon need to leave some of the DINK label back in the '80s, as an increasing number of LGBT couples are becoming married with children.

Travel is part of our 'cultural identity'

Yep, gay people travel more. LGBTs travel nearly twice as much as straight people, according to Community Marketing's October 2012 LGBT Travel Survey, and we're traveling more than we have in the past.

In all, 32% of gay men and 35% of lesbians who were surveyed said they traveled more in the last 12 months. According to U.S. Department of State and U.S. Census figures, 71% of all LGBTs in the U.S. hold a valid passport, compared with about 35% of the overall U.S. population.

We like to travel, and travel is one of the top ways we spend our disposable income.

Bob HayesPerception: More to spend on travel

Right or wrong, the perception is that we make more money and we have more to spend. LGBTs who are out tend to live in more progressive places, such as large cities, where incomes trend higher, and this gets picked up in the surveys. Thus, more income means more travel.

However, what surveys don't include is the vast number of LGBTs who live in rural America, who are not out, and whose travel habits have not yet been quantified. Perceptions are often wrong, and we think this one needs some fine tuning.

We're visible

And being visible means we can be targeted for marketing campaigns. As LGBT people come out and live open lives, more companies will jump on the bandwagon and target us directly with specific ads in an attempt to woo our travel dollars their way.

LGBT publications and media outlets have led the charge, but an increasing number of mainstream media are including obvious LGBT messages in their promotions. The simple depiction of a same-sex couple in an ad can, and often does, lead to an increased market share for a product.

Look for more LGBT visibility in mainstream media, and soon.

We're loyal

LGBT travelers go where they are wanted, and they keep coming back.

Hotels and other travel-related companies are going out of their way to make LGBT travelers feel safe and welcome in their properties because they know a happy, comfortable LGBT traveler will be loyal to them.

As we've said before, LGBT travelers will not go where they are not wanted. Those destinations and companies that wholeheartedly open their doors to us will keep us as customers for the long haul. And our straight friends and relatives will come along with us.

In recent survey results it's been estimated that LGBT travelers make up about 4% to 5% of the U.S. travel market, or an estimated $790 billion. That's a lot of buying power, and companies are scoping out ways to target us as never before. Get ready for the media blitz.

Jim Burba and Bob Hayes, partners in life and business for more than 20 years, are co-founders of Burba Hotel Network, a worldwide leader in developing and producing conferences for the hotel and tourism investment community. Since 2000, their events have attracted nearly 80,000 delegates in 22 countries. Follow them at BurbaHayes.com or @BurbaHayes. 
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