I have long lamented the fact that the travel industry does not understand the gay and lesbian community and while they would love our travel dollars, they very rarely do anything to deserve that treasure. In recent years studies have shown that the LGBT community spends a lot on travel and that it is one of our favorite ways to spend disposable income. In light of these facts, I have tried to understand why the travel industry doesn’t market to the community in a positive proactive way, but recently I found a company that I think finally understands it.
First, let me define the dilemma. Stereotypes in this world abound, although they’re mostly unspoken in polite company and certainly in marketing campaigns; well except when referring to the LGBT community. In a survey of travel related marketing materials geared towards the gay and lesbian population one will find off-color puns, reviews of clubs and bars and of course places to shop. On the face of it that doesn’t sound so bad except that is usually the totality of the travel resources afforded to my community. Posters with half naked men are plastered across deals for gay-only cruises and parties, as if the only reason I travel is to find a dance party and a hot guy. (Neither of which when considered on their own merits are necessarily bad things however)
As it turns out, the real reason why most LGBT community members travel is to… travel. Novel concept, right? We travel to explore the world, to meet new people, to try new food and to grow as individuals. Wait, you say, that sounds like the reason most people travel. And that is my point exactly. Instead of Chippendales dancers and rainbow colored flags, we need respect and tolerance. That’s what I look for when I travel. I need to know hotels that won’t discriminate against me, won’t ask if my partner and I are ‘totally sure’ we want that King sized bed and where we can go without risk of violence. Those are the main travel concerns of gay and lesbian travelers and instead of being herded into gay ghettoes, we want to enjoy the same luxury and experiences any other traveler wants to enjoy. The LGBT portion of worldwide travel expenditures is about $142 billion per year. You’d think someone would think intelligently about how to truly cater to the community.
I had begun to give up hope until recently when Facebook for once rewarded me with a new promotional video (because it’s much more than a simple ad) by the travel giant Expedia. I’ve been somewhat critical of Expedia’s efforts in targeting the LGBT community in the past, but this video is frankly a game changer.
To be frank, producing this video took guts. Even though the video is honest, deeply moving and even profound it will also offend and alienate potential customers. Very few companies are ever willing to take that risk and it speaks volumes of the moral integrity of Expedia that they don’t care about losing people, even if those people may be small minded and bigoted.
Producing a high quality video isn’t enough though and I’m sure Expedia realizes that. Hopefully it will be followed by other new and innovative ways of serving the LGBT traveling public. Expedia has the opportunity to become a major resource for the community and I think they may just have what it takes to follow through.
What do you think? Does this signal a new wave of positive LGBT travel marketing?