LGBT travel: Where are you going?
San Francisco and New York City have long been considered the reigning duo of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travel experience. San Francisco has been an LGBT destination for decades—perhaps starting as early as the Gold Rush of 1849. But these gay-friendly cities aren't the only ones attracting the LGBT traveler.
Bruce Yelk, Visit Philadelphia director of public relations, notes that for the past ten years, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, Las Vegas, Miami, and Philadelphia have been consistently in this market. To the north, Toronto is another destination steadily marketing to an LGBT clientele.
"While all markets have unique elements, one of the most important realizations for me was that the LGBT traveler and the mainstream traveler look for many similar experiences when they travel," said Steve Murray-Smith, Florida Keys & Key West sales manager. "They shop, eat, visit museums, partake in activities, and enjoy nightlife. However, LGBT travelers typically travel more often, have a higher average spend per vacation, and are not shy to spend the money it takes to have a first-class experience."
Tour operators must learn which products will appeal to this market. Murray-Smith sees mainstream operators attending LGBT travel shows, or exhibiting at The Original GLBT Expo. Operators often move into the market selling mainstream cruises or established gay or lesbian cruies; some seek product suggestions from LGBT clients. Murray-Smith feels it critical to sell appropriate products in safe, welcoming destinations, and ask hotels or cruise booking services what they know about LGBT travelers and how welcome they would be.
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