Gay and lesbian travel carves a niche of its own

ONGOING debate over the topic of ‘gay marriage’ in Australia may confound at the divide it seems to represent from the broad social realities of today, where the question of sexual orientation has almost become ‘ho-hum’, but it also reinforces the importance of a clear voice and collective message in representing the unique needs of the gay and lesbian community, which embraces the broader LGBTI groups.

Travel is a good case-in-point. Gay and lesbian travellers visit the same places and seek the same holiday benefits as all travellers do, but there are also distinctive needs that still define this arena as a niche segment of the market.

According to Mr Rod Stringer, Managing Director of peak industry membership body, Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia (GALTA), there is a continuing role for specific marketing and representation that is focussed on connecting travellers to the right hosts, as well as working to improve awareness of the nuances within the niche.

“While pride or community events, like Sydney Mardi Gras or Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival, are popular travel motivators for the gay and lesbian community, all travellers share a universal desire to explore new destinations and to feel welcome and comfortable while on holiday,” Mr Stringer said.

For gay and lesbian travellers this can still be a challenge if confronted with a business owner that is not comfortable or not aware of how to cater appropriately. The most common example here is the offer of twin beds to a same-sex couple checking in to a hotel.”

Mr Stringer said that one of the key roles of GALTA was to circumvent situations such as this by connecting welcoming tourism businesses to gay and lesbian travellers.

Established in 1991, GALTA is a non-profit organisation and peak industry body representing the rights and interests of over 170 members in developing a professional and dedicated tourism and travel industry catering to Australian and international travellers.

Guided by a voluntary Board of tourism and travel professionals, including accommodation managers, IT professionals and the travel trade, GALTA services its members through promotions at major national pride events, regular email communications to a database of close to 2,000 subscribers and via its comprehensive website, optimised by an active social media strategy.

The role of social media in connecting with gay and lesbian travellers and influencing holiday decisions is a marketing arena that GALTA will develop further on behalf of its members, according to Mr Stringer.

“GALTA has an active Facebook presence and we are looking to expand on this as part of our overall digital marketing activity, which will also consider the growing importance of smart phone technology,” he said.

“Recent research from the US shows that gay and lesbian consumers are about 50% more likely to own a smart phone than the general population, and 60% of these use their smart phones on holiday to source local tourism products and experiences.

This is a critical element for us to consider and to build upon in our future marketing and communications.”

For more details on GALTA, become a member or subscribe to its monthly newsletter go to www.galta.com.au

Research sourced via Community Marketing, Inc., San Francisco, CA

Source = IGLTA & GALTA

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