New data by Gaydio and TTG Media reveals travel has a long way to go to reassure LGBT+ consumers it is supporting their rights.
LGBT+ holidaymakers spend significantly more on their trips every year than other consumers, according to new research – illustrating how lucrative this sector can be for the travel industry.
A survey, completed by nearly 1,200 people and conducted by UK-based LGBT+ radio station Gaydio in partnership with TTG Media, found LGBT+ people spend an average 17% more annually on leisure travel.
LGBT+ consumers spend nearly £4,000 per person per year on their holidays, including £1,524 on breaks of less than five days and £2,310 on longer holidays.
In comparison, heterosexual consumers spend an average of £3,277 per person per year on holidays – £1,338 on short breaks and £1,939 on longer holidays.
Gay men are likely to book the most short breaks of any LGBT+ group with an average of 3.04 trips per year (well ahead of the heterosexual average of 2.41 breaks per year), while lesbian and bisexual holidaymakers spend the same amount as heterosexual people on breaks of five days or less.
In terms of destinations, Spain topped the poll for the most popular place to visit for LGBT+ holidaymakers, according to the Gaydio survey, particularly Barcelona and Gran Canaria. This was followed by Amsterdam, Mykonos, New York and eastern Europe (Warsaw, Budapest and Prague).
For “bucket list” destinations, the Big Apple took first place, followed by Las Vegas, Sydney, Tel Aviv, New Zealand and Japan.
But Russia, Dubai, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jamaica were named as the top five destinations that LGBT+ people would like to visit but are “reluctant” to go to because of concerns over anti-gay laws.
Worries about a country’s sexual orientation laws continue to have a major influence on destination choice with 83% of LGBT+ people saying this is a factor on whether to visit a particular country or not. This means pre-booking research is vital for the LGBT+ community – 94% said they do research in advance on their destination.
Fortunately, when they get to their destinations, the vast majority of LGBT+ travellers do not experience any issues, with 81% saying they have never experienced homophobia while on holiday.
The survey also found nearly two-thirds (65%) of LGBT+ people did not currently use a travel agent when booking a holiday, with just 35% tending to book their trips through an agent.
This suggests the travel industry has a lot of work to do in convincing LGBT+ travellers it is supporting their rights when going on holiday, even for those who book through agents.
Only 22% thought the industry was doing enough in this area, with 27% saying the trade needed to do more. Half of respondents (51%) said they didn’t know if the industry was supportive enough.
Suggested ways the trade could improve its services include providing better information about LGBT+ friendly destinations and hotels; telling clients about any potential risks related to their sexuality or gender; offering specific LGBT+ packages; and being seen to actively promote themselves to the market.
“Travel agents should always tell a couple if their dream holiday is going to be OK or not due to their sexuality,” said one respondent. “Agents should be aware that some countries really aren’t suitable for LGBT+ travellers.”
Others in the poll thought agents and operators should rate destinations from an LGBT+ safety perspective and highlight those places with equality laws, as well as having sections on their websites and brochures giving reviews and suggestions on suitable accommodation.
“Being LGBT should not make me a different traveller to anyone else. My experience should still be the same”
The issue of “safe spaces” for LGBT+ travellers also came up in the survey. One respondent recommended travel companies should employ specific agents and packages to support LGBT+ clients and help to “link them up with safe spaces where they are going, like gay bars, and ensure they are staying in a friendly or open neighbourhood”.
Several respondents also highlighted the need for agents to be able to give LGBT+ customers “the best and most comprehensive advice about destinations”.
Some also questioned whether travel companies should continue to sell and promote holidays to countries with anti-LGBT+ laws, particularly those that have the death penalty for homosexuality – although not everybody agreed.
One respondent said: “I do not think travel agents should put LGBT travellers off visiting a country based on their LGBT laws, unless they have had first-hand personal or negative experiences. Being LGBT should not make me a different traveller to anyone else. My experience should still be the same.”
The survey found agencies using rainbow stickers and badges on their shop windows and websites could have a positive influence on LGBT+ consumers with 86% saying it might make them more likely to use that agency or travel firm.
Although not everybody believed simply using a sticker was enough to encourage bookings from the LGBT+ market.
“You need to have explicit queer-friendly policies beyond slapping rainbows over your logos in June (Pride Month),” said one respondent. “You should provide reassurance for trans travellers that they will be respected and supported when travelling, and reassurance for queer couples they will not be made to feel uncomfortable for normal things like holding hands or kissing goodbye while travelling.”
Another suggested the industry needed a “seal of approval or rating that the country is LGBTQ friendly” to reassure consumers the destination was suitable for them.
The survey was completed by 1,171 people and conducted over a four-week period during the summer by Gaydio, with the majority of respondents (68%) saying they were LGBT+, while 26% identified as heterosexual.