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History In The Making for Gay Tourism Industry

By: Posted: May-13-2008 in

Many of the world's largest brands were represented at the convention such as Accor Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Marriott, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and the Intercontinental Hotels Group.

The aim of the convention was to better train travel industry staff how to understand the key travel concerns of gay and lesbian consumers -- if they want to maximize their returns from targeting the gay market consumer segment.

Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now -- a leading global gay marketing agency established in 1992 -- explained to IGLTA delegates that gay travellers often experience travel differently than other consumers.

"Gays and lesbians want what everyone wants on vacation - to relax and feel comfortable," Johnson said. "But gay and lesbian travellers are often unsure about how individual staff members will treat them during their vacation."

"It can take only one staff member to appear uncomfortable around a gay person for the vacation to be diminished for that guest," Mr Johnson said. "With gay travel now worth hundreds of billions in spend each year globally, staff training is a critical market success factor for the hotels, travel agents and tour operators now actively trying to target the gay travel market."

Out Now presented a detailed workshop at the IGLTA convention on its online training, accreditation and marketing system called GayComfort™.

This program address the concerns of gay travellers and the need for staff to better understand those concerns, to build improved gay travel vacation experiences, and increasing gay travel market profits as a result.

Examples presented by Out Now included how staff best handle bookings for double beds by same-sex couples, how to react when a customer reveals they are gay, and how to avoid stereotypes when serving gay consumers.

"GayComfort delivers what the industry needs to help staff members do their jobs better when serving gay guests," Mr Johnson told the IGLTA convention delegates.

"Most travel industry workers are not homophobic - but they do need better information on what to say -- and what not to say -- to make their gay guests really feel they can relax and be themselves when being served by that staff member," according to Johnson.

"GayComfort delivers a lot of highly practical information; to empower staff to better understand and meet the travel needs of their gay and lesbian customers. It really is a classic win-win: for the gay traveller, for each staff member and for their employer's bottom line."

One of the world's leading tour operators -- Air Canada Vacations -- announced during the IGLTA convention that it has formed a new partnership with the GayComfort program. Armando Mendonca, Director, Product Development, said his company is to promote GayComfort™ training to hundreds of its partner hotels.

"Air Canada Vacations is very pleased we can enhance the high quality offerings of our partner hotels by working with Out Now's GayComfort training," Mr Mendonca said.

"Better service makes for better business, and we are confident that this is a win-win for all concerned with this program. Most importantly, by improving the consumer's experience through GayComfort, we believe our properties will be rewarded with improved gay market business and consumer loyalty over time."

Berlin Tourism Marketing was also announced as a Platinum Partner in the GayComfort™ program.

Leading gay media products are involved globally in the implementation of this initiative - promoting better training, accreditation and marketing opportunities for the industry to improve service delivery to, and increase profits from, the multi-billion value global gay travel segment.

Media brands such as GT, DIVA, PInk Paper, AXM (UK); GCN (Ireland);, LOTL (Australia); Wrapped (South Africa) and Tetu (France) are amongst the global network of gay media partners which inform gay travellers where they can stay at GayComfort accredited properties.

Clark Massad, Advertising Director, Têtu, and Paris, France said his publication thought GayComfort was an important development in the continuing growth of the gay travel market.

"Têtu is the leading publication for the francophone community worldwide and has helped pave the way for a greater acceptance and understanding of gays and lesbians throughout France," Mr Massad said.

"We are pleased to be partnering with GayComfort, paving the way in the development of a positive gay travel experience, enabling lesbian and gay travellers to enjoy the freedom to relax and just be themselves when on vacation."

Tom Nibbio, Global Ambassador of IGLTA, the man responsible for the association's worldwide membership and sponsorship growth, said the new GayComfort™ training program meets a strong market need.

"With literally billions in gay tourism dollars, euro and pounds up for grabs each year, it seems likely this product should find an industry ready and willing to learn how to improve the ways it delivers customer service to the gay travel segment," Mr Nibbio said. "This is history-in-the-making for our gay tourism industry."

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