LONDON, UK (WTM/OUTNOW) – Global LGBT marketing agency, Out Now Consulting ( http://www.OutNowConsulting.com ), is calling on the global travel market to dramatically improve customer service standards after new research reveals that many destinations marketing themselves as ”gay friendly” may be falling well short of the mark.
Out Now Consulting will announce significant upgrades to its GayComfort ( http://www.GayComfort.com ) training and certification program at World Travel Market, the premier global event for the travel industry, in London this week, as it moves to help tourism centers improve their standards of customer training and deliver a fairer and more equal experience to gay and lesbian people.
Out Now is currently conducting Community Values 2010, the world’s biggest ever global LGBT research study in 23 countries and 10 languages, offering unprecedented insights into the lives and views of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people across six continents.
More than 8,000 LGBT people in the UK have already taken part in the study, and more than 30,000 have participated globally. The full findings are published in January 2011.
Tourism study findings, to be released at World Travel Market on November 10, reveal that modern gay and lesbian travelers are highly wary of tourist destinations and hotels that market themselves as “gay friendly” to try and attract a slice of the lucrative pink dollar, yen, peso, euro, or pound.
In reality, LGBT travelers report that many destinations and hotels offer a less than welcoming customer experience because frontline staff just don’t have the right skills to make gay and lesbian travelers feel as welcome as everybody else.
Out Now Consulting founder and CEO Ian Johnson said: “These days, suddenly everyone wants to be ‘gay friendly’ and frankly, that has made today’s LGBT consumers extremely wary of the bonafides of the welcome being extended.
“Even the phrase ‘gay friendly’ is pretty hackneyed and does absolutely nothing to rescue a holiday that can be ruined when a stay feels far less than welcoming for a lesbian couple because of their experience at check-in or for two gay men when ordering room service to the honeymoon suite.
“The number one factor that LGBT travelers hope for when they travel away from home is an equal and genuine welcome, which means that travel providers need to improve their communications and behaviors, so that LGBT people can enjoy what every other customer has taken for granted for years: the chance to simply be themselves on their vacation. It seems obvious that when we go on holidays we all want to relax and feel comfortable. The industry needs to lift its game on the staff training front if it is going to deliver on the promises being made to LGBT travelers.
“The message to the travel industry is clear. It’s no longer good enough to tick an equality box, fly a rainbow flag, or join an LGBT trade association, because that’s not going to deliver the level of experience that today’s LGBT customers want. Improvements need to be made.”
WTM chairman Fiona Jeffery said: “This new Out Now Global research is a truly groundbreaking study. It will help inform the leading thinkers in our industry how to deliver constantly improving levels of customer understanding and better levels of training and service to the increasingly important global LGBT tourism market.”
LGBT travel market research findings for countries around the world will be announced by Out Now at World Travel Market, the premier global event for the travel industry, on Wednesday, November 10 at 11:00 am at the Out Now Gay Marketing Masterclass. Initial UK results released today (November 8) reveal that the UK LGBT travel sector is now worth £5.1billion per annum despite the recession.
HEADLINE UK FINDINGS FROM THE COMMUNITY VALUES 2010 LGBT GLOBAL RESEARCH STUDY
LGBT travel in the UK has proved resilient despite the recession, experiencing a slight increase in total annual expenditure to £5.1billion, compared with £4.9billion in the 2007-2008 survey.
Lesbian and gay parenting is a growing issue for the industry as more LGBT people become parents. So, too, is the continuing growth of the LGBT honeymoons market – as more lesbians and gay men enter into civil partnerships and equal marriages – with a massive growth in the total value worldwide of LGBT honeymoons tourism spending being predicted by Out Now.
Gay travel destinations preferred tend to be long-haul for many, with the USA and Australia occupying the top two travel spots in the LGBT travel wish list.
Airlines have much to learn from the new research – with LGBT marketing and staff equality issues revealed to be more important factors to LGBT travelers than frequent flyer programs.
UK RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS – SOURCE: 2010 OUT NOW GLOBAL LGBT STUDY
The total value of UK LGBT travel spend is now £5.1billion annually.
Top 10 desired destinations over the next three years:
8. New Zealand
Top 10 European Cities:
Top 10 North American Cities:
1. New York City
2. San Francisco
3. LA/West Hollywood
4. Las Vegas
8. Washington DC
10. Key West and the Florida Keys
THE IMPORTANCE OF LGBT FESTIVALS AND SPECIAL EVENTS IN DETERMINING TRAVEL PLANS
More respondents chose “not important at all” (14.5%) than selected “often important” (12%).
LGBT festivals and events can have some limited value to tourism marketers – 36% of respondents selected “sometimes important,” however, this is balanced by a similar number of people (37%) selecting that LGBT events are “neutral” or “not very important.”
Key criteria for choosing an airline:
2. Flight schedules
3. Route network
Importantly, the marketing activities of an airline to the LGBT market, sponsoring LGBT groups, and equal treatment of LGBT staff were all ranked as more important than an airline’s frequent flyer program.
THE PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE EXCELLENCE IN HOTELS
75% of respondents agree or strongly agree that they prefer to choose to stay with hotels that they believe are genuinely “gay-welcoming.”
Top 5 preferred holiday activities:
4. Nightlife (lesbian/gay)
5. Local history
Preferred methods of booking a holiday:
66% will book direct with airline’s own website
24% prefer to book hotels online via a mainstream travel agent/tour operator (Thomson/Thomas Cook/Expedia, etc.)
52% will book direct with hotel’s own website
29% prefer to book airlines online via a mainstream travel agent/tour operator (Thomson/Thomas Cook/Expedia, etc.)