“Visibility advances acceptance.”
The principle is simple, but it is one of the most powerful arguments behind why destinations and travel brands should continue to push ahead with a clear agenda favouring LGBT inclusion and diversity. It is also one of the messages at the heart of the Global Report on LGBT Tourism, published this month by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).
Download the full report: Second UNWTO Global Report on LGBT Tourism (18MB)
As the author of the report, I was determined to tackle the question of what it means to target the LGBT consumer in a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people live so differently; to the point of near-total integration in many developed world countries, or to facing the horror of genocide in countries which are rapidly slipping backwards.
It became clear that helping LGBT people to be visible is essential. Research has shown that when LGBT people are visible, and that their true diversity is reflected in the media and in public life, the effect is self-perpetuating and helps more LGBT people to be open with their family, their friends, their co-workers and most importantly, themselves. This in turn, helps further acceptance at national, and ultimately international level. (All the more prescient today, since I have published this post on 17 May – the International Day Against Homophobia)
Well-established LGBT destinations told us that having a visible LGBT population, visible LGBT political representatives, visible LGBT marketing campaigns, and a history of promoting diversity was essential to having established a loyal following among LGBT travellers. For LGBT people in emerging outbound markets, social media has been instrumental in showing them that they are not alone, and in helping them to connect.
What can the global travel industry do to help?
One of my main arguments is that the global travel industry can start by promoting equal rights for LGBT people at all levels; in the workplace and in the streets, at home and overseas. Using the principles applied by some of the world’s most successful businesses, I argue that this is because LGBT inclusion leads to economic prosperity as people perform better when comfortable in their working environment. This, in turn, prosperity creates vibrant, liveable places, which make for great destinations.
The UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai makes a direct appeal in his opening message: “I invite all tourism leaders to provide a supportive environment for LGBT tourists, in order to associate our sector with open-minded activities that embrace differences between peoples and cultures”.
Unique insights for the travel industry
In compiling this report, I brought insights from international organisations, governments, NGOs, the media and think-tanks, dedicated to tourism and LGBT rights. Data from a dedicated survey of 70+ destinations around the world is included, as well as my own insights on destination marketing and development.
The report, which was launched at the 34th IGLTA Annual Global Convention held on 4-6 May in St Petersburg, Florida, is the only one of its kind and has been written to reflect the current state of destination marketing, management and LGBT equality around the globe.
It is ideal for anyone who is interested in the LGBT traveller and their impact on the global travel and tourism industry. It also gives extensive recommendations to destinations on how to start out with the LGBT segment, or refresh their approach.
Funding for the Second Global Report on LGBT Tourism was kindly provided by the IGLTA Foundation and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
I would also like to thank the team at IGLTA and the staff of the staff of the UNWTO Affiliate Members and Communications departments for all of their help throughout this project.
How to make LGBT travel matter to Millennials
In the past I’ve written blog posts and given numerous presentation on the challenges posed to those in LGBT marketing, by shifting attitudes towards sexual orientation and gender identity among younger generations. Many ask “is LGBT travel still a thing?”. My answer is that it is a thing, but you have to upgrade your marketing message and product proposition to the reality of how LGBT people live in the 21st century.
I explain more about this on pages 70-73 of the new report, and you can also check out my past post ‘How to Make LGBT Travel Matter to Millennials‘.
Find out more
Check out this quick guide to the report
View the UNWTO press release about the report
Download the First Global Report on LGBT Tourism (2012)
Learn more about the author
Want to know more? Contact me: genctraveller[at]gmail[dot]com