Skift Take

Similar to having a strong social presence, reaching out and welcoming the LGBT community has become a destination marketing standard rather than exception. The differentiation now comes in the form of high-quality content and campaigns that build actual trust between places and travelers.

Destinations large and small are coming out and declaring their support for the LGBT community with a variety of marketing campaigns, content packages, and social media hashtags.

Some cities like Visit Philly and Key West have been targeting the community for several years while others have launched or increased their initiatives in that time.

Visit Philly launched its first LGBT-friendly campaign in 2003. It not only saw increased visitation, but increased spend from repeat visitors as a result.

The Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay campaign was launched in response to interest from the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus to consolidate LGBT-friendly marketing efforts. The city’s tourism board did a year of research and found a $54 billion underserved market.

“Their timing could not have been better as travel was off from 9/11,” explains Bruce Yelk, Visit Philly’s director of PR. “It made sense to go after the market in which there was little competition and in which our stakeholders were already marketing.”

More than a decade later, we did a quick scan of the 50 largest U.S. cities and found that 75 percent of their tourism boards integrated LGBT-friendly content or campaign into their website and marketing materials.

Just this week, Seattle and Richmond, Virginia, launched new LGBT-friendly campaigns, which serve as great examples of the kind of creative marketing that destinations are coming up with to woo this high-spending demographic.

Visit Seattle is giving away four Seattle weddings to out-of-state LGBTQ couples on the first Wednesday of every month from now until December. Richmond Region Tourism wrote a series of clever coming out letters, from the perspective of the city, to Boston, DC and Atlanta. It also featured LGBT residents talking about why they love the city.

It’s a trend that extends beyond America. Tourism organizations for Britain, Germany, Stockholm, Switzerland, Berlin, and many other destinations have come out with campaigns that engage and attract the LGBT community.

Open to New Markets

Destinations have good reason to target the LGBT community.

The global value of the LGBT leisure travel market was estimated to be between $165 billion and $181 billion in 2013. A survey from LGBT market research firm Community Marketing found that U.S. gay and lesbian hotel guests spend, on average, 57 percent, more on travels than their heterosexual counterparts.

The biggest change in the past five years has been the size of the markets reaching out to the LGBT community. Five years ago New York City and Los Angeles had marketing campaigns targeting LGBT communities. Today small and mid-sized markets from St. Louis to Raleigh are also reaching out to the demographic.

“What happened over time is that the LGBT topic isn’t that controversial any more. The LGBT market has become more available to small and mid-sized markets, both politically and economically, coming out of the recession,” explains David Paisley, senior research director of Community Marketing.

There is also a ripple effect in which other destinations are realizing the potential that early movers did a decade ago.

“The number and frequency of companies targeting this market is increasing because it’s a potentially profitable market, and also because they see the success of other destinations who have benefitted from LGBT tourism,” adds Darren Cooper, consultant at LGBT marketing firm Out Now.

“Smart brands are facing forward and realising that providing and inclusive environment for everybody is now a market reality and makes solid business sense.”

Although consumer-facing LGBT campaigns have become commonplace in 2014, only a few destinations are quick enough to capitalize on the B2B opportunities. Paisley suggests that there are huge opportunities for brands that go after LGBT group travel.

“No where is doing it better than the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. They are actively calling LGBT organizations and asking for that business,” explains Paisley.

“Tracking convention sales is easier than tracking individual sales.”

Below is a video from RIchmond’s new LGBT-friendly ad campaign:


The Daily Newsletter

Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.

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Tags: lgbt, marketing

Photo credit: A gay-marriage supporter flies a rainbow flag during a rally in Seattle, Washington, in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that led to federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Greg Gilbert / Seattle Times/MCT

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