The LGBT traveller is being courted by destinations all around the world. Abigail Healy looks at what’s hot for 2018.
The Swedish tourist board VisitSweden has worked hard to promote LGBT travel in the UK and is cementing its commitment further with a new global campaign, “Open for Everyone”.
For LGBT travellers planning a visit, suggest mid-summer when they will not only be able to bask in the midnight sun, but can also revel at Europride – hosted in Stockholm from July 27 to August 5.
From the city to the slopes, European Gay Ski Week celebrated its 10th anniversary this March in France’s Les Menuires and the resort will be gearing up for yet another epic celebration in 2019. The week-long event combines skiing and snowboarding with cabaret, parties hosted by international clubs and DJs, fine dining, pool parties and open-air apres ski. Pure Organisation hosts the event and offers agents commission.
Event director Kevin Millins says: “We’ve put together a full programme along with chalet, hotel and apartment accommodation to suit all budgets in a resort where everyone is very welcoming and friendly.”
For clients who prefer to shun the snow for the sand, look to Gran Canaria. Known as “Miami Beach of Europe”, hotspots on the Canary island include renowned gay beach bar Kiosk No7, marked by its weathered Pride flag, and Yumbo Centre, a mall with stores tailored to the LGBT community. Highlights of Gran Canaria’s events calendar include Maspalomas Gay Pride in May and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Carnival Drag Queen Show, in February-March 2019.
Malta is another sun-soaked destination that welcomes LGBT travellers with open arms. It has just been ranked top on the European Rainbow Index 2018, winning the accolade for the third consecutive year. This year the island plays host to TropOut gay festival in September – it’s the first European country to host the event and coincides with Malta Pride.
For a sociable week of activities and cultural experiences, Slovenia’s Pink Week offers travellers the chance to explore the country with like-minded people. Clients can be sure of a classy experience thanks to organisation by Matej and Mattej, co-owners of Luxury Slovenia DMC. Activities at this year’s event, which has just taken place, included a visit to Lipica, home to the Lipizzan horses, a carriage ride through Unesco karst caves, and of course blow-out parties.
The US is bursting with Pride events and LGBT-friendly destinations, so clients looking to head stateside can include these in itineraries should they wish.
The big ticket is WorldPride, hosted for the first time in the US by New York City next summer. Fred Dixon, president and chief executive of NYC & Company, says: “2019 is a particularly poignant moment in time for New York City and the global LGBTQ community, marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising – a pivotal event that is widely known as the birthplace of Pride and the modern LGBTQ rights movement.”
Before then, clients heading south this autumn should look to Atlanta, which hosts its 48th Pride festival from October 12-14, as well as other events throughout the year.
Up in the Capital Region, the city of Richmond in Virginia has a campaign, OutRVA, with a handy website dedicated to LGBT-friendly accommodation, dining and attractions. Virginia also hosts VA PrideFest in September.
Neighbouring state Maryland’s largest city Baltimore has an up-and-coming LGBT scene in the hip neighbourhood of Mount Vernon – a lively cultural arts centre. For those keen to party, Baltimore Pride takes place from June 15-17 this year with a Saturday parade and block party.
Out west in California, Palm Springs claims the largest number of gay resorts in the US and has an all-gay city council. The Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism offers a warm welcome to LGBT visitors with dedicated LGBT information outlets, including the visitgaypalmsprings.com website. It also hosts a range of year-round events such as The Dinah Shore Weekend, one of the world’s largest lesbian events, the annual Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival and Palm Springs Pride (November 3-4, 2018).
San Francisco is where the Pride flag was first waved in 1978 and it continues to be a hub for the LGBT community today, particularly in the Castro district, which is decorated with bright rainbow colours. Its Pride event, which claims to be the country’s largest, is from June 23-24 this year.
And of course Las Vegas has to get in on the action with a series of LGBT-friendly events. Funway’s destinationproduct manager, Malcolm Davies, points out some of the highlights, including The Sin City Shootout –an LGBT athletic tournament; Viva WildSide’s Sin City Soiree – a week of parties and events for the transgender community; Matinee – a gay dance music festival over Memorial Day weekend (late May); Convergence festival over Labor Day weekend in September, and of course Las Vegas Pride
Sporty types are well catered for too with AdventureOUT in Snowmass, Colorado, from July 4-8, 2018. Developed by the group behind Aspen Gay Ski Week, the event offers hiking, biking and white-water rafting in the surrounds of the Rocky Mountains. Meanwhile, those of a more wintry persuasion should look to Canada from January 20-27, 2019, when Whistler hosts its 26th Pride and Ski Festival – with previous events having featured comedy nights, the splash pool party, Snowball26 – a huge club night, and plenty of on-slope fancy dress.
In the Caribbean, Funway’s Davies recommends the Dutch Caribbean islands of Curacao and Aruba, both of which have welcoming LGBT attitudes and laws. As well as picture postcard beaches and laid-back beach bars, Curacao will be particularly lively from September 27-30 this year when its annual Pride festival takes place.
It’s been a momentous year for Australia’s LGBT community with the legalisation of same-sex marriage last December and the 40th anniversary of Sydney’s iconic Mardi Gras festival in March, headlined by singer Cher. Mardi Gras typically takes place on the first Saturday in March, so revellers can start planning for next year’s event – Travel 2 has a package on sale from £1,299pp for 10 nights – but in the meantime LGBT visitors can be sure of a warm welcome in the city, and of course tie the knot should they wish.
The Asia region can be a mixed bag when it comes to LGBT travel, but Thailand is making big strides in promoting its inclusive message. This year will see the first global LGBT symposium in Bangkok with LGBT buyers and media in attendance. The aim is to deliver organisational change among Thai travel brands and help them create product to appeal to the LGBT community.
Chris Lee, head of marketing at Tourism Authority of Thailand, UK and Ireland, says the destination already has a huge amount to offer LGBT travellers, highlighting hotels and experiences such as gay-owned Twelve Bangkok, Villa Mahabhirom and the Supanniga Cruise, as well as global brands including Peninsula Bangkok, Belmond, SO Sofitel Bangkok and other Accor brands that have made a commitment to the LGBT community, plus DMCs such as Easia and Smiling Albino, which have created safe and inclusive LGBT product.
Lee adds: “With a subcommittee in the Justice Ministry of Thailand developed to consider same-sex civil unions in the foreseeable future, we also expect exponential growth in the popularity of Thailand among LGBTQ travellers.”
Join us at the TTG LGBT Conference
Interested in learning more about marketing and selling to the LGBT market? Tickets are on sale to our annual event on July 4 at Tropicana Beach Club.
Sales director UK and Ireland, Celebrity Cruises.
HOW CAN YOU HELP AGENTS WHEN BOOKING CRUISES FOR LGBT TRAVELLERS?
We have a dedicated LGBT+ toolkit available (cruisingforexcellence.co.uk), including a host of marketing tools, recommended itineraries, a bank of destination and onboard images, a print advertisement template, video overviews and the rainbow Celebrity Cruises logo.
WHAT IS YOUR TOP SELLING TIP WHEN BOOKING LGBT CLIENTS?
It’s important to treat everyone as an individual no matter how they self-identify. First, find a holiday that suits your clients’ needs. LGBTQ clients will want to know that wherever they go on holiday they will be welcomed, respected and safe. Ultimately, that’s no different from any other client – they simply want a fantastic holiday experience.
Sales director, Hoseasons.
HOW CAN YOU HELP AGENTS WHEN BOOKING BREAKS FOR LGBT TRAVELLERS?
Our Specialist Collection agents’ guide is a great starting point. It provides inspiration from our eight Specialist ranges. Using the “feature filters” on the agent portal (hoseasons.co.uk/agents) can help you find the best breaks for your customers – you can filter for features such as hot tubs, indoor pools, spa facilities and many more, so you can find exactly what they are looking for.
WHAT IS YOUR TOP SELLING TIP FOR AGENTS WHEN BOOKING LGBT CLIENTS?
Get to know your customer and make them feel at ease. Use gender-neutral phrases and questions where possible and take an interest in their reason for travel – the more you know, the better service you can deliver.