When planning marketing campaigns for the LGBT community it's important to remember that each letter of the acronym represents a different identity. Each identity has its own travel preferences just like any other group, from where they prefer to stay to where they like to spend their money.
Americans have become more accepting of the lesbian and gay community during the past year, with a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing gay men and lesbian women to marry in all 50 states coming down last June, and U.S. LGBT travelers have made progressions of their own.
For example, a hotel with a good LGBT-friendly reputation is important, but not the make-it-or-break-it factor for the LGBT community booking travel, according to Community Marketing, Inc., which conducts research on LGBT travelers and helps brands understand and market to this community. It recently surveyed some 4,600 U.S. LGBT travelers ages 18 to 65 and older with 57% of respondents identifying as gay men and 32% identifying as lesbian women. Respondents indicated location and value were the two most important factors when booking a hotel and LGBT-friendly reputation was the third most important.
The highest percentage of respondents, 41%, also indicated that Marriott International did the best job with their outreach to the LGBT community during the past year, followed by Hilton Worldwide with 39%.
Asking LGBT travelers how important a hotel’s LGBT-friendly reputation is, “Doesn’t really matter anymore, they view them all as LGBT-friendly,” said David Paisley, senior research director for Community Marketing, Inc. [see Chart 1 below]. “If we asked this question a number of years ago [reputation] would have been number one, but now it’s number three and in some communities it’s number four. Five years ago Kimpton was number one but now it’s number five, but W and Kimpton Hotels are still doing quite well.”
“In gayborhoods there aren’t a lot of big hotels around, it’s more sharing economy. Gay and bisexual men especially like gayborhoods because they tend to see the whole community there and Pride month is one of the only times when the entire LGBT community is there at one time and LGBT millennials really like that.”
U.S. LGBT travelers who are full-time employed receive about 20 vacation days per year and 62% of respondents said they take all of them. LGBT travel material on tourism board and hotel websites are still important and signal inclusivity and a welcoming environment to these travelers as nearly 90% of respondents supported tourism bureaus maintaining LGBT-specific information on their websites.
“We found a decent percentage of respondents have only been out for less than four years,” said Paisley. “Not everyone you’re talking to has been out for a long time. Having both a LGBT microsite and imagery are important and outreach is hitting gay and bisexual men and boomers much more than millennials right now.”
Chart 1: Marriott has been at the forefront of marketing campaigns for the LGBT community and these travelers take notice. Some 41% of LGBT travelers surveyed feel Marriott International did the best job at outreach to the LGBT community during the past year.
Chart 2: Gay and bisexual men prefer staying in hotels more so than lesbian and bisexual women. But lesbian and bisexual women prefer alternative accommodations like Airbnb more so than gay and bisexual men.
Chart 3: Booking direct on a hotel’s website is important to the LGBT community.
Chart 4: Some 58% of LGBT travelers said they plan to spend the most on dining out and restaurants when traveling, more than any other category such as hotel quality and nightlife.
Chart 5: More gay and bisexual men visited a gay bar or gay neighborhood during their last vacation compared to lesbian and bisexual women.
Chart 6: Older generations of LGBT travelers are often forgotten given youthful stereotypes commonly associated with the community. But some 56% of LGBT parents with children over age 18 are now also grandparents and 28% have taken a vacation with their grandchildren.
Source: Community Marketing, Inc.
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Photo credit: TV celebrity Ross Mathews (center) officiated the wedding of George Carrancho (left) and Sean Franklin (right) during the Marriott-sponsored 2015 Capital Pride Parade in Washington D.C. last June. LGBT travelers recently surveyed said Marriott did the best job at outreach to that community during the past year. Marriott International