How to Make LGBT Travel Matter to Millennials

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What can destinations and businesses that are looking to attract the LGBT market learn from wider Millennial travel trends?

Last week’s IGLTA Convention in Cape Town brought together delegates from several continents and many different corners of the travel industry. Many of the speakers who weren’t lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender themselves, or hadn’t worked much with LGBT specific businesses remarked how innovative and forward-thinking they find this particular market segment to be.

I would largely agree with that. While it’s important not to generalise, it’s true that many, many LGBT travellers -especially those from mature outbound markets- are early adopters of technology, adventurous and keen to place travel as a priority in their life.

That is not to say, however, that destinations and travel brands seeking to cater to LGBT travellers don’t face their own challenges, or won’t in the future. Following my successful workshop at the IGLTA Convention in Los Angeles last year, IGLTA asked me to return and this time explore this question more deeply: If LGBT Millennials around the world are increasingly happy to identify themselves with their peers (who in-turn see their sexuality as more of a non-issue today), what does that mean for travel companies and destinations who develop and market gay-relevant vacations?

The big questions:

  • Is the LGBT travel industry keeping up with the pace of change in Mountain pictureMillennial attitudes?
  • Will established LGBT destinations remain attractive to emerging market Millennials?
  • In the future, to what extent will sexuality really define vacation choice?
  • What travel criteria will LGBT travellers always have when selecting destinations and travel services?

Just as with the wider group of Millennial consumers, I believe that it is essential for the LGBT travel industry to take lessons learned from youth consumer psychology and the way Millennials travel in general, if they want to tap into the interests of this diverse, niche (but often lucrative) market of travellers. In the presentation below I’ve set out some of these wider lessons to be learned in Millennial traveller behaviour and invite you to think about how they apply to your business.

JUMP TO THE PRESENTATION:

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The big answers:

There’s no quick answer to helping such a broad, diverse industry to adapt to a generational shift in consumer attitudes. However, I’d like to outline here, three major courses of action which should help destinations of all kinds adapt to this profound change:

  • Make travel matter to Millennials. As I outlined in my recent posts ‘Millennial Marketing: going beyond the schmaltz’ and ‘Helping a generation under pressure’, it’s vital to put forward products and experiences that are well adapted to Millennials’ spending behaviour. Selective spending (mixing budget and luxury experiences) is increasingly common, and of course there are so many other constraints on the modern Millennial’s budget. So before you worry about making LGBT travel experiences matter to your Millennial audience, consider how they view what you’re offering in terms of their priorities in life.
  • Innovation – Just like everyone else, LGBT Millennials are becoming more adventurous and seeking authentic experiences that help to connect them with the real soul of the destination. How can you provide such experiences, ensuring that they are open, understanding and welcoming to all?Use the wider lessons in ‘what matter to Millennials’ (the rise in self-improvement, health awareness and the desire to acquire life skills is just one example) to craft your LGBT travel product into something useful and meaningful.
  • Personalisation – Fortunately, all types of gay culture are becoming more mainstream (and vice versa) and the increasing visibility of ‘tribes’ within the LGBT community certainly provides powerful opportunities for the personalization of travel products and marketing that Millennials crave.However don’t forget the essentials: How’s your digital strategy in general? Are you really reaching your target consumers through the channels that they use? Where does your product sit on their path to purchase?

 

Looking for more resources? Check out the rest of my blog here on Genctraveller.com as well as my bibliography.

If you’d like tailored support on adapting your business to reach LGBT Millennials, or are looking for more insights and ideas you can reach me anytime via @genctraveller

Surprise! More tolerant destinations receive more visitors!

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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