The business-to-business conference Proud Experiences focuses on the LGBTQ market, but event director Simon Mayle is quick to assert that it is not a “gay travel show.”

“This is a travel show that is looking at tailoring travel experiences to the LGBTQ traveler,” Mayle said.

All evidence points to continued growth in the LGBTQ travel market. Citing research from Kantar Consulting, a data, insight and consulting company, and the gay social network Hornet, Mayle pointed to a demographic shift: While only 8% of baby boomers identify as LGBTQ, 31% of Generation Z identify as members of that community. 

“If you aren’t talking the language of this audience, then you’re going to be missing out on that future audience,” he said.

That future audience will be the focus of Proud Experiences when the event returns to the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in New York from June 22 to 24. Travel Weekly is a media sponsor of the event.

Now in its third year, the show is produced by Reed Travel Exhibitions, which also produces the International Luxury Travel Market and World Travel Market events. 

With 350 attendees expected, Mayle said the show has doubled in size since its 2018 launch, when it was held in London. Proud Experiences moved to New York last year as the city hosted World Pride and marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the uprising that sparked the gay rights movement in the U.S.

Proud Experiences offers attendees a fairly even mix of content in the form of master classes and appointments between travel advisors and suppliers. The suppliers in attendance range from providers of small, boutique accommodations, such as the Orania.Berlin, to major cruise lines like Crystal Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages.

When Mayle talks to travel advisors about working with the LGBTQ community, he encourages them to work with suppliers to ensure that their clients feel welcomed and seen.

As an example, he pointed to a Birmingham, Ala., agency whose clients include a lesbian couple and their two children. Making them feel welcome at a hotel could be as simple as the front desk saying something like “What a beautiful family,” which they would know thanks to the travel advisor’s foresight, Mayle said. It’s recognizing them as a family without overdoing it.

Mayle is especially pleased with this year’s Proud Experiences because of its diversity. Dozens of countries will be represented by attendees, suppliers of all sizes will be in attendance and conferencegoers include individuals from across the LGBTQ spectrum. 

“It’s not just about white, gay males,” he said.

Mayle said he has been pleased with the impact of past events. For example, a number of hotels have implemented sensitivity training for staff as a result of Proud Experiences.

“We’re a platform for important conversations to be had,” Mayle said.

Like Reed Travel Exhibitions’ other events, Proud Experiences is invitation-only. For application information, visit ProudExperiences.com.

 Correction: One of the suppliers at the event was Orania.Berlin; an incorrect spelling for the hotel was included in a previous version of this article.

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