No Longer Locked Into One Broad Category “LGBT,” LGBTQ Travelers Are Starting To See Travel Opportunities Geared Toward Their Interests and Their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
by Heather Cassell
It’s an exciting new world for LGBTQ travelers seeking their next big adventure.
Will it be a vacation in one of California’s famed wine regions? Cooking classes in Tuscany? A river cruise through Europe? A gay or lesbian party weekend in Spain or Thailand? A family beach getaway? “What will we do?” … or better yet, “Where will we go?”
The sky’s the limit for LGBTQ travelers now that the community has boldly come out of the closet – at least in Western countries. These travelers are now looking for more intimate vacations with friends, family, or their main squeeze based on interests and not simply because they are queer, but it’s still nice to be around “family.”
Travel professionals are recognizing this fact and embracing it.
“When gay marketing started, it was viewed initially as a one size fits all market,” says LoAnn Halden, communications director of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, speaking from her own observations of the changes in the industry and not necessarily for her organization. “With time, greater visibility and understanding, the destinations have learned that we are as diverse as our straight counterparts and now you’re seeing more marketing to lesbians or to transgender travelers or to LGBT families.”
At the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association’s conference in Los Angeles this past April, a panel of LGBTQ travel experts talked about the exciting future of queer travel and its maturing diversification. LGBTQ travel is growing up from simply lumping the entire community under one travel umbrella “gay and lesbian travel” to breaking out into different segments of the community such as lesbian travel, LGBTQ family travel, queer women of color travel, transgender travel, and as well as interests beyond sexual orientation and gender identity, such as architecture, art, culture, food and wine, history, and more.
It’s an exciting time as more LGBTQ people come out, become accepted, and rights are gained queer travel opportunities diversify, say the experts.
Tanya Churchmuch, president of MuchPR, an LGBTQ travel marketing and public relations expert, agrees. Spain, which was named the most popular destination for LGBTQ travelers, according to a study by LGBT Capital, has really gotten the message big time and is now host to a number of queer women and men’s getaways at some of its most popular cities and islands.
“After a first visit to Spain a few years ago, I was astounded at how queer-friendly the entire country was,” says Tanya, recalling how from big cities to small towns her wife and she felt completely comfortable walking hand-in-hand because no one batted an eye lash. “I’ve already returned to Spain since that first trip and [I] often tell lesbian travelers it’s a fantastic destination, simply for that … of course, the food, wine, architecture, and history don’t hurt either. It’s an amazing package.”
The first organized LGBT travel opportunities out of the gate are lesbian travel with Olivia Travel and RSVP and Atlantis for the boys in the early 1990’s; LGBTQ family travel with r family vacations launched in the early 2000’s; and now transgender travel with Transgender Vacations is joining the ranks as of 2014.
Caitlyn Jenner perhaps showed that transgender women want to travel too when she and her crew of trans girlfriends had a girlfriend getaway road trip to Sonoma in August. Caitlyn and the girls took a road trip to Sonoma County, in California’s legendary wine country, and enjoyed a luxury stay at a private Sonoma County villa booked through Beautiful Places on E!’s I Am Cait.
It was an inside peek at a girlfriend getaway with a trans twist. Cait and the girls showed the world that girls will be girls getting out on the dirt riding motocross dirt bikes at the Girlz MotoCamp track in Petaluma, roller skating, swimming and what girlfriend getaways are always about real girl-time chatting about the “transitions” of life.
Cait’s adventures with her besties only scratches the surface of what’s to come in LGBTQ travel. LGBTQ travel experts believe the market is going to becoming more diversified and nuanced as queer people continue to be more accepted in society in the Western world and as we travel to not-so-friendly destinations in the nearly 80 countries that criminalize same-sex love and those countries evolve with the global LGBTQ rights movement. They are excited about the new direction LGBTQ travel is taking the experts told the audience.
As Ian Johnson, founder and director of OutNow, a marketing company that specializes in research on LGBTQ lifestyle and travel trends, says, “‘LGBT’ spells ‘people.’”
“You need to focus on delivering great products to LGBT people rather than focus solely on the content of their wallets,” he says. “When a destination takes the trouble to better understand and meet the needs of their LGBT travel guests then they earn the right to our business and our referral business as well.”
This is the second of three articles exploring new opportunities in the LGBTQ travel market. Click here to read “Queer Travel Opportunities Rise with LGBTQ Rights” and “What Do Queer Women Travelers Want?“
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