Surprise! More tolerant destinations receive more visitors!

Reuters reported this week that ‘The Legalization of Same-Sex Marriages is Expected to Fuel the Growth of the Travel Industry’. Ensuring equal rights for LGBT people and the positive impact this is having on tourism growth and spending is being most keenly felt in the United States, but other destinations are set to benefit from this boom too.  But what does this have to do with Gen C? 

As lawmakers in the US and elsewhere are quickly discovering, discriminating against people based on their sexuality is quickly going out of fashion. The connected generation simply isn’t bothered. Fuelled by the power of social media to denounce discrimination and show a different side of life to those who live under more repressive political regimes, Gen C is likely to look more kindly on destinations that breathe tolerance and diversity. In the case of LGBT travellers, LoAnn Halden, Media Relations Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) explains:

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“As acceptance of LGBT rights increases people feel more comfortable being open when they are traveling and more destinations are getting on the bandwagon to market to gay travelers,” Halden explained.  Worldwide’.

Key West in Florida, San Francisco, New York and Provincetown in Massachusetts, which have long welcomed gay tourists, are being joined by new cities, regions and countries.

“The number of people marketing openly has also increased,” Halden added in an interview. “Now we are seeing places like Door County, Wisconsin, marketing to the LGBT community. In South America we are seeing more smaller regional destinations.”

A movement that is gaining traction

The comments caught my eye because they very much echo the principal reasoning that went into a report that I produced with IGLTA in 2012. The UN World Tourism Organization Global Report on LGBT Tourism was the first report ever to be published by a UN agency about the subject. It’s good to see that this is a subject that the wider travel and tourism industry is waking up to, not just in the US but further afield. As I explained at the time:UNWTO Global Report on LGBT Tourism

“The granting of marriage rights for same-sex couples has produced a whole new market segment  and providers in both source countries and destinations have been keen to develop new products  and services to respond to this. It has been observed that when marriage rights are approved, many of the first couples to ‘tie the knot’ are older, consolidated couples who will have different leisure interests to younger, single travellers (until now, arguably the most visible segment in LGBT travel marketing). Similar opportunities are arising to attract gay couples who are increasingly travelling with their own, legally-adopted children.”

As well as making ‘tying the knot’ easier from a legal standpoint, I argued that the act of approving equality legislation gives a massive boost to the brand too:

“Beyond the economic benefits, the approval of legislation in favour of equality for same-sex couples sends a powerful brand image of tolerance, respect, progress and open-mindedness, resulting in an increase in LGBT visitors, among others.”

The IGLTA, which this year celebrates its 31st Annual Global Convention from 8-10 May in Madrid is an important business network that brings some of the world’s biggest names in travel and tourism to learn more about how to work with the LGBT market, and create the right connections in the industry.

You can find a copy of the UNWTO Global Report on LGBT Tourism here, and get more information from www.unwto.org and www.iglta.org 

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