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A report commissioned by Travel University in 2000 highlighted that 10% of tourists were gay and lesbian, corresponding to 70 million check-ins internationally.
If there's one activity that gay men love to engage in throughout the year, it is travel indeed. In most cases, gays do not have children. This releases them from many of the typical family obligations that come with parenting. Having minimal familial responsibilities also allows gays to enjoy more disposable income than other groups. The world has in recent years witnessed a growing embrace of diversity, especially regarding culture and sexuality. Whereas previously, gays were hesitant to take a public position on their sexuality, times have changed. It is widely believed that gays are entitled to the same basic rights as others. Indeed, many travel destinations across the world now welcome gay tourists. Travel marketing executives regard the gay market as a highly profitable niche.
However, gay travel is not without its unique challenges, especially when it comes to seeking accommodation and identifying travel destinations.
While some gay travelers are more comfortable traveling in large gay groups, others have a preference for small group travel. Whatever the case, one factor that helps to create a memorable travel experience for gay travelers is encountering tour guides and hotel personnel who are sensitive to their sexual orientation. Where this sensitivity is lacking, it becomes a powerful factor in watering-down the travel experience for gay travelers. As much as certain travel destinations may appeal to gay travelers, the availability of gay-friendly accommodation is a vital consideration when making travel plans.
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Many bed and breakfast establishments, hotels and resorts fail to portray a gay-friendly image. No effort is made to address the needs and preferences of gay clients. This indicates a lack of sensitivity to the needs of special groups in the travel industry. Besides, such establishments constantly miss out on a good opportunity to tap into the profitable gay market. In some cases, the staff of hotels and other tourist establishments lack knowledge about gay bars, clubs, restaurants and other attractions that would appeal to gay travelers. The inability to provide concise instructions to gay guests leaves gay tourists feeling overlooked and disappointed.
Although more attractive travel destinations are increasingly making the effort to cater for the gay market, others still lag behind in marketing themselves as gay-friendly destinations. Hotel marketers and tour operators who are aware of the gay market niche invest in training their staff to be sensitive and helpful to gay travelers. They take the necessary measures to qualify their establishments as "gay-friendly". Once classified under a "gay-friendly" tag in different media, it becomes easy for the gay market to identify tourist destinations that best meet their needs. This is a vital factor in travel planning for gay populations.
Holiday activities for gay travelers may not vary greatly from those that other travelers engage in. In most cases, travelers will want to sightsee, go shopping, dine out, sunbathe and visit nightclubs. However, the ability to engage in these activities in a relaxed setting matters a great deal for gay travelers. This makes gay-friendly destinations and accommodation a major attraction for gay travelers.
Gay Travel Tips
- Demonstration of Affection – it is best to avoid excessive demonstration of affection in public. This also applies to heterosexual couples. Some communities perceive such actions in a negative light and may be offended by public displays of affection.
- Exercise Caution – the typical gay scene reflects an easygoing and relaxed atmosphere. It is easy to let go of caution in such settings. However, it helps if you remember that there's always a possibility that some individuals may have ulterior, self-serving motives and would wish to exploit the generally open and relaxed gay setting.
- Restrain – many gay travelers report of bad receptions in certain areas or having to receive unwelcome remarks. Rather than engage in a spirited defense of your sexuality, it is best to simply ignore such unwelcome attention. Rural settings are more likely to have intolerant views towards gays, so if you plan to visit such areas, be sure to exercise discretion.
All in all, Gay Travel is still a growing niche market and should not be neglected by international business.
Gay and Lesbian Tourism. Retrieved February 17, 2012. Tourism Insights.
Gay Travel Advice. (2012) HostelBookers.com
Gay Travel Tips. (2012) About.com
LGBT Travelers. (2011) Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Niche Marketing: The Gay and Lesbian Travel Market. (2012) Travel Marketing Decisions.