Mark Lewis, chief executive and founder of World Rainbow Hotels offers the inside track on the world’s first GDS-accredited LGBT consortia programme.
What is the World Rainbow Hotels ethos?
World Rainbow Hotels (WRH) is the world’s first and only GDS-accredited LGBT consortia programme, promoting its qualifed member hotels to a community of 24,000 affiliated agencies as well as 500,000 GDS-enabled agencies worldwide that book LGBT travel.
How many hotels do you represent?
We look after 1,200 hotels in 216 destinations. Recent additions include the Valsana Hotel & Apartments in Switzerland ahead of Gay Ski Week in January 2020, The Roxy Hotel in New York for Pride this month and the Hotel Bel Ami in Paris for La Marche des Fiertes (29 June).
What guidelines do the hotels have to adhere to?
We take into account a hotel’s location and quality rating. Hotels also have to complete an extensive questionnaire to prove their knowledge and involvement with the local LGBT community. The properties must be affiliated to LGBT associations and the local LGBT chamber of commerce and Pride organisations and must be compliant with non-discrimination policies.
What are your LGBT travellers looking for?
Nobody wants an awkward check-in experience, so the property must have knowledgeable front desk and concierge staff , who should be able to advise on LGBT points of interests such as restaurants, bars and events. The LGBT market tends to travel more and have a higher disposable income, but are price- and value-sensitive too. It’s important our hotels can offer exclusive rates and packages. LGBT travellers look at reviews and comments on social and LGBT media, so agents should take that into consideration too.
What LGBT trends do you see?
LGBT family travel is on the rise, while honeymoon destinations have become very popular, driven by the legalisation of same-sex union. Statistics show that 82% of LGBT travellers are interested in a cultural holiday involving history and heritage, however, beach holidays are proving popular too.
Most popular LGBT-friendly destinations for WRH?
Last year, New York, London, Paris, Bangkok, Barcelona, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Madrid, Cape Town and Tel Aviv were our best-selling destinations in terms of the number of room nights.
Should agents avoid booking any destinations?
LGBT travellers are concerned about safety. Historically WRH has not operated in destinations that have laws criminalising homosexuality. We did make exceptions for places in high demand with a proven history for keeping LGBT travellers safe, such as the Maldives. However, we issue strong travel advice to our clients.
Are there any standout LGBT-friendly events for clients at a WRH property?
Pride and LGBT events include Circuit in Barcelona, Xlsior in Mykonos, the New Orleans-based Southern Decadence festival and White Party Week in Miami. Bear weeks and gay film festivals should be considered when suggesting a destination. Many of our member hotels offer special rates in conjunction with these events, however, WRH does not partner with them. We do offer our hotels resources and information that clients need so they are aware of these events and can connect with organisers locally.
What new projects does WRH have in the pipeline?
This year we are developing our Global Diversity programme, which is both leisure and business travel orientated. We recognise the need for major corporations to be able to provide this solution to their employees. We are looking to offer a negotiated discounted rate on a confidential basis, and agents that join WRH can access these rates via the GDS.
Agencies can register with World Rainbow Hotels at worldrainbowhotels.com