A benchmark affiliate report has been published by the UN World Tourism Association (UNTWO) in partnership with the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. The Global Report on LGBT tourism was released in January 2012 and found that destinations offering a tolerant culture were reaping the benefits of increased travel to – and spend by – gay travelers.
The report cautioned against making assumptions about this market, as sexuality is not necessarily an indicator of socio-economic status or leisure choices. Although difficult to accurately measure the impact of gay tourism, sources in the USA attribute 5 percent of tourism spend to the LGBT market. In Cape Town, this is thought to be 10-15 percent of all tourists.
Progressive attitudes in countries such as South Africa, Argentina, India, Spain, Mexico, and South Korea have attracted the LGBT market in droves. The wedding market for this sector is a big driver, and the LGBT sector appears to have bucked the recession trend, bringing higher-than-average spend to their holiday destinations. In addition, the advent of same-sex marriage laws have meant that many gay couples are now traveling with children and spending in the family market.
Generally savvy in digital media, LGBT travel is influenced by social media and digital or actual word of mouth. Cape Town is a favorite with gay travelers for its matchless beauty, diverse lifestyle, colorful people, and large local gay population. South African events such as Gay Pride, The Pink Loeries Mardi Gras, the Out in Africa Film Festival, MCQP, and Mr. Gay South Africa are further reasons for LGBT travelers to choose SA as their destination. The UK’s Guardian recognized Cape Town as “One of the Ten Most Popular Gay Destinations in the World.”
Destination marketing associations who were successfully attracting the LGBT market were working proactively at gay-targeted expos and fairs but were also aligned with equal rights organizations that promoted tolerance. Says the International LGBT Travel Association, “reaching out to LGBT travelers in an informed, authentic manner is essential.” In particular, LGBT travelers were sensitive to destinations who were only interested in their money.
In 2011, a total of 76 countries in the world still made homosexuality illegal and of these, five still find it to be punishable by death. The UNTWO points out that the struggle for gay rights is a human rights struggle.