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As the LGBT market becomes a major focus area for the travel industry, it’s important to not only understand lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers, but also to know how to market to them.
Thomas Roth and David Paisley of Community Marketing, Inc., a LGBT market research, strategies and corporate training company, recently talked about the LGBT community and marketing strategies at the 2015 IGLTA Annual Global Convention in Los Angeles.
According to Community Marketing, the LGBT community makes up about 3-6 percent of the adult population. Statistically speaking, that may not seem like a group worth focusing on… until you realize that the LGBT community travels about twice as much than the average American, according to Community Marketing’s 19th Annual LGBT Tourism Survey.
On top of that, while the perception that LGBT travelers are generally more affluent may be a bit off base, it is true that the LGBT community does tend to live in more progressive places, which naturally tend to offer better income, Roth and Paisley said.
It’s also important to note that LGBT travelers tend to exhibit greater loyalty to a preferred brand. For example, luxury reputation of a brand and a hotel’s loyalty program were the top two motivators for LGBT travelers when they shop for a hotel, according to Community Marketing’s study. That’s including Baby Boomers, Gen X travelers and millennials.
When it comes to distinguishing gay and lesbian travelers, there are a few things to note. Gay men, according to Roth and Paisley, tend to be more urban travelers than lesbians. However, lesbians tend to prefer outdoor travel more than gay men. On top of that, 40 percent of gay men live in urban areas, compared to 32 percent of lesbians, based on the study.
How to Market to LGBT Travelers
As mentioned previously, it helps to have a strong hotel loyalty program when attracting LGBT travelers.
When LGBT travelers were asked to rank motivators of travel on a sliding scale from 1 to 6, a hotel’s loyalty program was ranked 5.1 by the all-important millennials. It was also ranked 4.6 and 4.4 by Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, respectively.
It’s also worth noting that simply saying you’re LGBT-friendly these days doesn’t cut it, as Roth and Paisley mentioned. Only one-third of LGBT travelers have chosen a hotel brand based on its LGBT reputation in the past 12 months. As mentioned previously, a hotel’s luxury or overall reputation appears to be more significant to the LGBT community.
But there are ways of reaching out to LGBT travelers that can have a significant impact on who they value most.
For one, it pays to have “LGBT” in the subject line of emails. Community Marketing gave participants a variety of email subject lines to look over in the survey. Nearly three-fifths (58 percent) of LGBT travelers said they would “definitely” open an email titled “Just for our LGBT guests.”
Being family-friendly appears to be increasingly important for travel brands, as well. More and more LGBT couples are raising kids these days, according to the study. In fact, 27 percent of lesbians 30-44 years of age currently have kids, something Roth called “a major trend.” When LGBT parents were asked to choose which is more important in determining a destination, being family-friendly or LGBT-friendly, LGBT parents chose being family-friendly by almost a two-to-one margin. This trend has been building significantly since 2013.
Word of mouth is still a heavy influencer in LGBT travel. Participants in the study were asked to choose which factors influence them to pick a destination. Given 17 options, 20 percent of millennials, 13 percent of Gen Xers and 13 percent of Baby Boomers chose “Recommendation from LGBT friend.”
That doesn’t mean advertising isn’t important though, Roth said. Almost 10 percent of Baby Boomers chose “Advertising in LGBT media” as an influencer of travel. Advertising in general population media (6 percent), an article in general population media (5 percent) and an article in LGBT media (5 percent) followed for Baby Boomers.
“Advertising in LGBT publications is still very, very important,” Roth said.
In any case, Community Marketing stresses that it’s most important to match the right LGBT segment with your brand when selling your product.
“The best opportunities are to understand the differences within the LGBT market,” Roth said.
A Word About Words
Back in the day, the LGBT community used to be referred to as the GLBT community.
However, it’s more important than you may think to say the right term today. As Roth and Paisley mentioned, if you use GLBT in your marketing campaigns today, you are likely to be viewed as not very progressive or knowledgeable about the LGBT community and movement. That’s not a very good way to represent your travel product.
Based on the most recent study, Community Marketing recommends using “LGBT” in marketing campaigns. You cannot go wrong with this term.
Of course, just as GLBT changed to LGBT, LGBT could change to something else. Some millennial LGBT travelers are starting to use LGBTQ more (“q” is for “queer” or “questioning [their sexual identity]”). LGBT travelers under 30 years old are using entirely new words. But before you go and start using terms such as LGBTQ in campaigns, you may want to wait a while before it’s a mainstream term. Currently, Roth said, some in the LGBT community are OK with calling each other queer, but that obviously doesn’t mean they are OK with anybody outside the community calling them that.