Britain refocuses gay tourism campaign

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NEW YORK -- The British Tourist Authority's four-year-old campaign to attract gay and lesbian travelers from the U.S. is continuing with the launch of the 2002 edition of its gay travel guide, as well as new strategies for building a market niche that it says has already produced "gratifying" results.

The decision to begin targeting gay and lesbian travelers from the U.S. was made in 1997. "We recognized that the gay and lesbian visitor had an understanding of the destination, but was not convinced that it was the place to go," said Christine Braganza, Director, Western Region for the BTA.

Since then, the strategy has evolved. "The first print [product] produced was motivational, to create awareness of the destination" and to encourage first-time gay and lesbian visitors, according to Braganza. "We ended up with a fairly substantial database."

The BTA subsequently expanded the campaign with the introduction of a larger travel guide and a dedicated gay and lesbian Web site, www.gaybritain.org.

Using their membership in the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association and the Travel Alternatives Group, the BTA also has developed a database of travel agents. For the past four years, they have taken 30 to 40 agents annually on educational trips to the U.K. for destination presentations and one-on-one meetings with local suppliers, as well as familiarization side trips.

The results overall from the BTA's marketing campaign have been encouraging, Braganza told Travel Weekly. "We measured the value of last year's Inside & Out brochure and we were gratified with the results," she said.

Braganza explained that a recent survey of consumers who visited the Web site and/or requested material provided details about the program's effectiveness.

"Half of all respondents had visited the U.K., and 38% of those visitors said that it was a direct result of the campaign," Braganza said.

The average stay of these visitors was 11.3 days -- which she said is longer than most visitors stay -- and 21% of respondents said they were encouraged to stay longer than originally planned because of the campaign.

For 2002, Braganza said that the main objective of the campaign is to expand the database and to maintain the dedicated Web site, which she said receives 5,000 unique visitors each month.

The BTA also is expanding its profile in gay communities throughout the U.S. While efforts in the past focused on increasing consumer and agent awareness in large cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, they also will now target smaller cities such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

According to Braganza, direct mailings to the existing database of consumers and agents is being emphasized this year to a greater extent than advertising. Educational trips for 2002, meanwhile, will focus more on U.S.-based tour operators than travel agents.

In addition, the BTA hopes to expand featured British destinations to include Glasgow, Scotland, and Cardiff, Wales.

Called Britain Inside & Out, the 64-page travel guide provides information about London, Brighton and Manchester, England; Newcastle, Wales, and Scotland (including Edinburgh and Glasgow).

Expanded sections on accommodations, arts and culture, bars and restaurants, events, nightlife and shopping, as well as a section encouraging the use of travel agents, also are featured.

Agents and consumers can obtain the guide by contacting the British Tourist Authority or visiting the Web site, which contains some of the same information.

For details on the BTA's gay and lesbian promotional material and campaign, agents can contact Mairead Linneen, in the BTA's Los Angeles office, at (310) 470-2782 or via e-mail at [email protected].

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