NEW YORK -- Despite being far more likely to have a passport
than the average U.S. citizen and much more likely to use it, members of the
LGBTQ community feel underrepresented when it comes to tourism marketing.
Research presented at last month's International Gay &
Lesbian Travel Association Annual Global Convention here shows that members of
the LGBTQ community want to spend money with companies that support LGBTQ
equality. Yet, data from Community Marketing & Insights (CMI) indicates
that subsets of the expanding LGBTQ market feel excluded from marketing
efforts, presenting travel companies with the opportunity to tap into
From TSA checkpoints to border crossings to bathrooms,
travel can be, and often is, particularly fraught for the transgender
community. Read More
CMI founder and executive vice president Thomas Roth said at
the convention that the vast majority of LGBTQ people surveyed care if a brand
or a company supports their community.
"That means 95% really do care that you're engaged with
the LGBTQ community, that you're not just out there looking for our money, that
you're involved with us, that you get us, that you genuinely want us to be
embraced," he said.
The majority of LGBTQ
people surveyed, 76%, said companies supportive of LGBTQ equality will get more
of their business this year. Only 2% disagreed with that sentiment. The
remainder were neutral.
It's incumbent on companies themselves to share their
inclusivity with the LGBTQ community, said David Paisley, CMI's senior research
director. That can be accomplished through public relations efforts and
advertising. Community members are still very connected to the LGBTQ press, he
What's in a name?
Through the years, the LGBTQ community has gone by many
names. CMI found that currently in the U.S., 30% prefer LGBTQ, followed by LGBT (28%), LGBTQ+ (13%) and queer (12%).
Those names have evolved over the years, expanding from "gay,"
to "gay and lesbian," to where it now includes the transgender and
queer initials. CMI used to track research for just gay men and lesbians, but
it now tracks 23 identities.
"We are not binary," Roth said. "We are very
diverse, and we have to understand that diversity within our own community."
The message to those who want to market to the community is
that there are a lot of choices when it comes to its name, Paisley said, and "no
matter what some consultant or [we] tell you is the right word, the majority of
the LGBT population disagrees with that, which is really interesting."
Based on their popularity among those surveyed by CMI, Roth
recommends using the terms LGBTQ, LGBT or LGBTQ+. He cautioned against using
the term "queer," saying it is generally only used within the
community. It's also a loaded term for some.
Find the right niche
A number of subgroups within the LGBTQ community feel
underrepresented in marketing efforts.
In a CMI survey that asked if companies did a good job reaching
out to their communities, only 5% of lesbians said they did, while 58% said
they didn't and 37% were neutral. But 90% said they would be more likely to
support and do business with companies that market to and support them.
"Most of the lesbian community out there feels like you're
not doing a good job, and frankly, we're not doing a good job of outreaching to
the women's market, and they want you to," Paisley said. "But it's
not just the lesbian market that feels that way."
Similarly, only 6% of respondents who identify as
transgender/gender-expansive said they felt companies do a good job of outreach
to their community, but 88% said they would be more likely to support and do
business with companies that market to and support those communities.
The numbers were similar with other subsets of the LGBTQ
community, including African-American, Latino and Asian-American participants.
These numbers present an opportunity to be first-in-market
with any of those groups.
Paisley cited Autostraddle, a website popular with
lesbian, bisexual and queer women, which was represented at CMI's conference a
few months ago. He asked then if even one travel company advertised on it.
"And they said no, even though they're the hottest
lesbian website out there," Paisley said. "So you're really missing a
lot of market."
Roth advised travel companies that want to reach the
community to target a particular subset and to focus on groups they've already
had success with.
"If you're really strong with women travelers, then
focus on the lesbian community. If you're really strong with boomers, focus on
the boomer LGBTQ community," he said. "Find that affinity between
what you're already successful with in your existing markets that you're
attracting and interpret them for the LGBTQ market."