IGLTA Convention in Lauderdale Celebrates Global LGBT Travel
"The gay travel market is no longer a ’niche’ market," stated Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, the national umbrella organization that represents all segments of the U.S. travel industry, during opening remarks for the 28th annual convention of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.
The Power of the Pink Traveler
Last year, U.S. gay travelers spent an estimated $65 billion for leisure and business travel, based on research by Community Marketing Inc.
The U.S. represents the largest segment of the global gay travel market, which Out Now values at an estimated $142 billion for leisure travel.
The growth and strength of the gay travel market was a recurring theme throughout the course of the convention held last week in Fort Lauderdale. The meeting drew nearly 500 participants from more than 35 countries including representatives from many emerging markets such as India and Curacao.
In addition to Dow, the participants were welcomed to Broward County, the home of Fort Lauderdale, by Mayor Sue Gunzburger and to the U.S. via videotaped remarks by the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco J. Sánchez.
During the course of the five-day meeting, participants attended educational and networking sessions.
Among the dozens of presenters were representatives from Google and TripAdvisor; who addressed the growing importance of reaching the LGBT audience online.
Multiple sessions focused on the issue of social media and the increasing role it plays in driving gay travel and building brand loyalty.
According to a number of reports, gay travelers around the world are higher consumers of online media and social networking sites such as Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter.
As a testament to the value of building your brand among LGBT travelers, Philadelphia broke into the top 10 U.S. destinations visited by gay travelers in 2010 - just seven years after the launch of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation’s groundbreaking Philadelphia - Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay campaign.
According to Community Marketing’s annual LGBT tourism study, Philadelphia tied for the #9 spot on the list of most-visited destinations and tied for the #2 spot on the list of the destinations most effectively promoting to LGBT travelers. Before GPTMC’s gay tourism marketing campaign kicked off in 2003, the region ranked outside the top 20 destinations.
Philadelphia’s efforts including traditional advertising, including being the first destination in the country to air a gay television commercial, as well as social media such as a Visit Gay Philly Facebook page.
Another key issue addressed during the convention was lesbian travelers. While much of gay travel marketing has targeted men, a number of presenters including Tanya Churchmuch, board chair of IGLTA and media relations manager for Tourisme Montreal, encouraged more effort be placed on reaching lesbians.
A Bright Future for Gay Travel
When IGLTA began in 1983, it had just 25 founding members. Today, the organization has more than 2,000 members from more than 80 countries. The membership consists of accommodations, airlines, tour operators, travel agents, destinations, media and other key players in global tourism.
In 2010, IGLTA became the first gay organization approved for admission to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
The 2012 IGLTA convention will be held in Florianópolis, Brazil.