Rainbow pride flying in Hawaii | Photo: Flickr/D.A. Lewis
As more countries around the world embrace LGBTI rights, the business sector is also on the lookout for ways to capitalize on the increasingly common ‘pink dollar’.
This is especially true among travel firms, many of which are brainstorming various incentives or gimmicks to attract LGBTI clients looking to splash out on luxury getaways.
But a panel of travel business leaders says that in many ways they needn’t bother.
The answer, the travel industry insiders say, is remarkably simple: ‘Just do business as usual.’
This was the consensus of the panelists, all of whom are gay men, while discussing the LGBTI luxury travel market during the Virtuoso Travel Week at Las Vegas, according to Travel Market Report.
‘It’s important that we treat [LGBTI clients] just like we would every other luxury travel client,’ said panelist Peter Lloyd, a regional director for Travel Edge.
‘It’s just being a good agent. There are no special needs. It’s just paying attention.’
More LGBTI nuance
The panelists found that some of the biggest hurdles were travel businesses which were either slow to adapt to the increasing commonality of LGBTI clients, or would overcompensate with elaborate pro-LGBTI offerings.
Lloyd explained his experience of the first extreme: when checking into a hotel with his husband, the hotel clerks ask in a tone of disbelief if they would be sleeping in the same bed.
‘If it is two guys or two ladies going on a trip together, simply ask, “What’s your preferred bedding?” Then make sure the hotel is aware of that. Relate to the hotel, in advance, that this is a gay or lesbian married couple,’ said Lloyd.
However, people in attendance also highlighted establishments which seemed over-eager to attract LGBTI clients through conspicuous displays, such as businesses namedropping their memberships of LGBTI rights organizations or flying large Pride flags.
‘I’m over the rainbow flag,’ said a member of the audience, who was also a travel agent and identified as a lesbian. ‘I love the word “welcoming”. I find that easier than “We love the gays”.’
The panel was quick to recognize the importance of developing good business practices by highlighting the growth prospects for LGBTI travelers in the near future.
Moderator Simon Mayle, the event director for Reed Travel Exhibitions, listed some impressive figures, which show that members of the LGBTI community travel and spend more than their non-LGBTI counterparts.
‘By 2030, according to UNWTO, there’ll be 180 million LGBTQ travelers worldwide. That’s 55 percent of the current population of the US,’ said Mayle.
He also added that around 31% of people born after 1996 identified as LGBTI, a statistic he called ‘staggering’, noting that 63% of younger LGBTI travelers look to travel agents for tailor-made vacations.