Some 27% of UK respondents to its LGBT 2030 project, which has to date surveyed around 135,000 people in 26 countries, said they had booked through a travel agent in the past three years.
“That’s changing,” said Out Now founder Ian Johnson during an LGBT Masterclass at WTM London. “We’ve all learned travel agents are a dying business. Not so.”
Johnson said Generation Z, post-millennials born from 1997, were fed up with online and were returning to retail environments like travel agents.
Coupled with being born into a more open, progressive society accepting of LGBT communities, these travellers are travel’s “new market” said Johnson. “They are changing the way everything is consumed - including travel.”
Annual LGBT spend on travel in 26 major markets has grown to $218.7 billion said Johnson, with India and Australia key growth markets.
A panel, chaired by Johnson and featuring deputy chief executive Switzerland Tourism Urs Eberhard and global brand curator Emerald Waterways David Winterton, discussed some of the reasons behind the LGBT community’s swing back towards travel agents.
Motivating factors included how LGBT travel had become a normal, recognised market segment for many travel businesses, the additional care and personal attention agents can give LGBT travellers throughout the booking process, and the rise of more specialised agencies specifically targeting the LGBT market.
Johnson also revealed Out Now will launch a travel agent module of its learn.lgbt workshop programme next year after initially rolling the programme out to the hotel sector.
The guidance is designed to build awareness of what motivates LGBT customers, how they want to be treated and what discourages them, and help agents grow satisfaction and loyalty among their LGBT clientele.