The LGBTQ market holds great promise for the travel industry. 

In fact, Out Now Consulting estimates that the LGBTQ global travel market is worth $218 billion, while Community Marketing and Insights found that LGBTQ travelers spend 33% more on travel than their heterosexual counterparts and take four to six leisure trips per year, compared with one to two trips for the average U.S. traveler.

Tapping into that market, however, can present a challenge. 

This June in New York, the second annual Proud Experiences, a three-day B-to-B conference, will connect travel advisors and suppliers to the LGBTQ market through networking events and educational sessions focused on trends and the strategies needed to build long-term business in the LGBTQ marketplace.

Reed Travel Exhibitions, the company behind International Luxury Travel Market and World Travel Market, is producing the event. Travel Weekly is a media partner. 

Scheduled for June 18 to 20 at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, Proud Experiences focuses on the LGBTQ premium and luxury travel market. Suppliers include hotels, cruise lines and destinations. 

Simon Mayle, the event's director, recently offered compelling statistics on why travel advisors and suppliers should want to reach this market: 8% of baby boomers and 20% of millennials identify as LGBTQ, but that number jumps to 31% when it comes to Gen Z, those born after 1997. The potential growth in future clients, Mayle said, is "mind-blowing."

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of India, the first openly gay Prince in the world, will be interviewed by Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann at Proud Experiences.
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of India, the first openly gay Prince in the world, will be interviewed by Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann at Proud Experiences.

Mayle said he often hears from suppliers that they want to do more than just say, "We're open and friendly." 

"It's about having a much more comprehensive plan," Mayle said. 

While some hotels have advertised to the LGBTQ community, they also realize the promise of those ads doesn't necessarily trickle down to the experience. 

"They are coming to us and saying, 'How can we make this better?'" Mayle said. 

Travel advisors, he said, play an important role in having the knowledge about which brands, properties and destinations understand the market and are not only friendly but safe. This is especially true as the number of LGBTQ families is growing.  

"The world is changing drastically, and the number of LGBTQ families is increasing, and they are looking to book a safe, secure place when they travel," Mayle said. "For their children it's critical. And understanding not only that the brand is very welcoming but also that the individual property is welcoming and will have like-minded guests. That's where I really see the role of the advisor coming into play." 

Proud Experiences will feature scheduled appointments between advisors and suppliers as well as seminars and workshops. 

Perhaps the most important thing the event will give attendees is the chance to talk about topics they might not have been comfortable bringing up. According to Mayle, suppliers often don't have the tools to give LGBTQ guests the personalization they want, not because they don't want to but because there is not only a lack of communication but "some nervousness that surrounds it." 

Mayle said, "Proud Experiences is really a conversation starter, particularly between the supplier and travel advisor, saying it's OK to ask questions; it's OK to say [to LGBTQ guests], 'How would you like to be referred to?"

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