Foundation Course – Name
Hospitality industry demonstrates rapid and significant growth in the last years due to globalization process and fierce attempts to reshape the marketing niches offering better services for various groups of customers. The success of hospitality industry depends on the skills of the personnel and the quality of services they provide to the guests despite of their individual preferences. The task of the hospitality manager/leader is to ensure that all key components of the service chain function properly guaranteeing the best conditions to every guest visiting the hotel.
Tourism is an indispensable part of the western reality reflecting individual’s culture, social status and personal preferences (Bowen & Clarke, 2009). Being one of the most rapidly growing industries tourism is looking for new niches and opportunities. Therefore, the LGBT community generates a perfect chance for hospitality sphere to enrich the touristic market with new travelling directions and services (Theobald, 2005). Billions are spent on travel annually earning critical wealth for resorts and societies. It seems obvious that travel places worldwide seek to improve touristic packages by implementing innovative ideas in various market segments attracting guests and investments.
In this paper, I would also like to outline the specific market niche, which gained popularity only recently - the LGBT tourism. Besides, I will point out the details of my future career path, my expectations and priorities I set in the hospitality sphere especially working with the peculiar contingent of guests having non-traditional sexual preferences. As a hospitality manager, I would like to elaborate a workable solution of checks and balances to provide an excellent servicing for the LGBT guests.
The LGBT tourism phenomenon started gaining tremendous importance among marketing experts and analytics. This paper is aimed to analyze this field of research. The goal of the paper is to analyze travel destinations, preferences, experiences and motivations of the LGBT tourists and outline the basic findings from secondary sources, articles, surveys and publications.
The LGBT Tourism Phenomenon
The LGBT market segment turned into a developing tourism branch in as little as several years. This industry covers specific sector offering services for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals or the so-called LGBT community, which traditionally has high-income level, no children and spent money on food, travel and entertainment . Hotel chains worldwide open special resorts for LGBT individuals. For instance, there is a well-known case, when the Axel hotels opened the first hotel in this market segment in 2003 (Pangaea Network, 2010). The success was so obvious that the first LGBT hotel was opened in Buenos Aires in 2007, in Berlin in 2009 and New York in 2012. The priority issues in LGBT segment are entertainment, culture, shopping, gastronomy and, places, where the representatives of this community could feel safe, comfortable and undiscriminated .
According to Brownell (2010), touristic sector is highly competitive struggling to win tourists and their money by offering various travel experiences. Therefore, touristic operators and destination marketing companies realize that in order to succeed in this competing environment mass tourism is not an optimal choice, while the priority should be given to catering of the LGBT consumers (Hughes, 2007).
The LGBT travel destinations mainly coincide with those of heterosexual tourists; however, have certain peculiarities in choice of events, frequenting places and atmosphere . Besides, when it comes to travel destinations the LGBT individuals try to avoid unsafe places. Additionally, the non-traditional sexual families tend to focus their travel preferences on peculiar services provided on touristic markets worldwide.
Recently more and more companies enter the LGBT market segment offering various touristic services and opportunities. Thus, Delta Airlines adopted a new web site informing the LGBT individuals about the gay friendly cities and directions . It is supposed that 10-15% of all tourists are the representatives of sexual minorities; their average travel expenditures compose $1100 compared to $630 spent by heterosexual tourists. The LGBT purchasing power was estimated at $562 million in 2012. Large cities around the world strive to arrange the “Gay Friendly” environment to attract the LGBT individuals by opening service centers and offices helping the LGBT clientele with comfortable travelling routes .
2.1 Empirical Findings of the LGBT Trend
The main trend of the LGBT tourism industry is to attain the minimum 20% of the LGBT travelers in this marketing segment. Largest travel operators offer “wedding packages” for homosexual families; elaborate programs for the LGBT tourists with low income and strive to deliver all the services in a friendly atmosphere of equality. According to recommendations of Scowsill (2011), the World Travel and Tourism Council CEO, the tourism sector for the LGBT contribute dynamic and powerful input in the world touristic industry. The sector of the LGBT tourism grow at least 3 times faster than traditional mass tourism. Scowsill (2011) explained that the LGBT touristic market in the US is estimated around $55 billion while the world LGBT tourism share is around $165 billion.
The fact that the LGBT tour sector growth is faster than the growth rate of traditional tourism is a significant indicator of the market’s profitability and future opportunities. It happens because tourism becomes a life style for people all around the world despite of the sexual orientation. Tourism does not lose its priority positions even during the world crisis and financial depressions, stimulating economy and providing working places. Despite the growing number of the LGBT tourists, that sector face the same challenges as the rest of the touristic industry such as travelling limitations, high taxes and long-term industry development .
Annual purchasing power of LGBT community covers billions of dollars representing the coveted prize for touristic business. The LGBT travelers are referred to the so-called DINK or “double income, no kids” category . They spent more time traveling and more money than any other average tourist. Majority of economically advanced countries launched projects oriented on sending and hosting of the LGBT tourists. According to Roth (2004) the tourists of the mentioned segment have certain travel preferences and goals reflected in the table below (Table 1).
Following the empirical findings, the LGBT trips in European countries and China make more than 10% of the total world turnover. For instance, France and Italy appear to be the country with the lowest share of the LGBT clientele (50%) while Germany demonstrates the highest share (86%). Thus, Germany, Spain and Great Britain comprise around 20% of the European LGBT market turnover generating the biggest volume of trips made by homosexual families (Pew Research Center, 2013). An average spending level of the LGBT customer per trip is €1,500 - 2,500 purchasing flight and hotel package. The expenditure level varies across the EU countries. The French LGBT traveler spends on average € 2,500 per trip or 30% of all average expenditures; at the same time Englishmen spend only € 1,500 or less comprising 23% of expenditures (Pew Research Center, 2013).
2.2 LGBT Services in Hospitality Sphere
Tour operators and agencies presenting services for homosexual tourists, inform their clients about the areas of the LGBT compact settlement (gay quarters), gay friendly hotels, cafes/restaurants, bars, clubs and other event places oriented on the LGBT clientele . Besides, such agencies help to organize tours to gay parades, sport events, concerts of the LGBT singers and musicians.
When homosexual marriages and other forms of gay partnerships were legalized in EU countries, the LGBT tourism sphere started promoting the marriage tours; wedding travels (“honeymoon travels”) family tours for homosexual spouses with children. Analysis of the world touristic market, conducted in the US showed that the role of the LGBT tourism increased during the economic crisis period (2008-2009). The significance of the LGBT segment in tour business is proved by the following data :
37 % of homosexual couples made long voyages;
57 % of LGBT tourists prefer expensive tours;
53 % of LGBT tourists plan their travel budget with minimum $5000 per person.
The LGBT tourism tend to choose certain travel destinations. According to the survey, carried out within the frames of market research for the LGBT community, the most comfortable travel destinations for such tourists are New York, Sidney, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, San Francisco and London . In the list а countries favored by the LGBT travelers, the US take the leading place, followed by France, Spain, Great Britain and Italy. The Canadian Journal “Metro” pointed out Buenos Aires (Argentina), Curacao (The State associated with the Netherlands), Cape Town (Republic of South Africa), Shanghai (China), and Istanbul (Turkey) as the best-visited places among gay and lesbian travelers (Pew Research Center, 2013). Among other places less popular among the LGBT travelers are Tel Aviv (Israel), Berlin (Germany), Delhi (India), Havana (Cuba), Barcelona and Madrid (Spain). The event tourism is much sought after in the LGBT sphere, for instance gay parades, festivals and cruises.
Asian and East European countries where the LGBT culture is less developed are not included in the list of recommended for visiting. The voting promoted by the Logo TV channel outlined the best LGBT travel destinations 2014. Based on the voting results the following laureates were nominated in the category “Trip Out Gay Travel Awards 2014” (Table 2).
There were also other nominations for tour operators, airlines and hotels. Thus, Zoom Vacations was nominated as the best LGBT friendly tour agency while American Airlines as favorite gay friendly aviation company.
Trends and Opportunities in the LGBT Tourism
Perspectives and opportunities of this market niche have significantly progressed in the last decades. The so-called IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association) founded in 1983 took pains to struggle with the prejudices of the LGBT culture by implementing more integrated gay friendly environment in larger cities . The LGBT consumers have their own motives, preferences and behavior patterns, which create certain trends in hospitality sphere. Therefore, IGLTA overtook some expert functions in determining the trends in the LGBT environment by combining resources, innovative ideas and support for all gay/lesbian consumers. It is obvious that appealing to the LGBT audience enables marketing experts capture revenues. For instance there is a case with the luxury hotel chain Bella Palazzo, which employed the LGBT exerts to elaborate excellent services for guests with non-traditional sexual preferences and even managed to create own perfume called “Bella You”, with no reference to sex. According to Edward (2008, p.1) Bella Palazzo is concerned “to tailor services to accommodate every aspect of the LGBT guest indulgence”.
The LGBT segment generate enormous revenues, any respectful hotel chain or tour operator has to consider the gay/lesbian consumers in order to capture this kind of market by demonstrating commitment and respect for the community. This strategy include advertising, creating of loyal brands, sponsoring and maintaining of 24/7 travel support for the LGBT group of consumers . Considering the fact that gay/lesbian travelers leave substantial incomes during their trips, hoteliers strive to create positive and friendly environment to make their guests come back to that destination over again.
A primary trend in hospitality sphere in the US is selling of 2 nights hotel stay at price no higher than $400 for the LGBT individuals. Such a short stay package is not limited by 2 nights; it includes mini bars, restaurants, entertainment rooms, and numerous socializing event. Trips arrangement for the LGBT individuals should become a short and long-term strategy for the hotels all over the world in order to meet recent revenue goals. Challenges of touristic market demand that the hoteliers should make efforts to explore the peculiarities of gay/lesbian preferences, analyze travel and purchase decisions, lifestyle expectations and other important aspects.
According to the research of Community Marketing Inc. (2009) the LGBT market segment in terms of loyalty, anticipation and discretionary costs is rapidly growing compared to previous decades when only a few top hotels offered services to homosexual and transgender individuals. Therefore, a fierce competition on the LGBT hospitality market is expected in the nearest years with almost every leading brand pursuing to gain a “gay-friendly” label. Short and long-term trends include ad and promotion campaigns, proper training for the personnel concerning the LGBT issues to ensure a gay friendly atmosphere and an excellent experience for all the guests.
Some experts underline another important trend when the hoteliers track guests with non-traditional sexual orientation. Certainly, it can be problematic while guests do not report their sexual preferences at check-in. However, creative hotels, able to make guests self-identify their sexual orientation, may represent fantastic revenue results. According to Schuurman (2007) the LGBT tourism sphere and opportunities it demonstrates, provoked major changes in overall attitude and openness of society towards the LGBT individuals and made business feel quite comfortable in this marketing niche. Some literature sources point out that progressive political environment based on tolerance values in the US, Canada and Europe promotes challenging opportunities for hotel chains, airlines, restaurants and nightclubs in demonstrating transparent and friendly attitude (Bristow, 2005; Hughes, 2007; Pritchard & Morgan, 2006).
My Future Career Path in Hospitality Sphere
Analyzing the chosen specific market segment, I understand that the hospitality leader I plan to be has to demonstrate flexibility and patience to ensure a solidarity atmosphere. Considering the LGBT guests’ sensitive nature and unwillingness to self-identify the sexual preferences, the hotel manager should be able to deal with the most difficult tasks connected with corporate ethics, personnel malpractice or hostility. I define this kind of hospitality manager as “servant leader”. This term was introduced by Brownell (2010) and described a hospitality expert able to find a perfect balance between business and customers’ demands. In my future career path, I prefer to focus primarily on guest-oriented issues, especially if these guests are the LGBT individuals. These issues include organization of an efficient hotel supply chain, room service, event management and thorough assistance in every need. I call it adequate hospitality management, which allows maintaining high quality services on front desk, organizing tours, picnics, booking of tickets and tables, and, certainly, offering events in special LGBT clubs.
While hospitality sphere is quite diverse, I made up mind to pursue my career in the global environment. Therefore, I am extremely motivated to be employed internationally because I can offer both creative approach to guest servicing and good ideas how to motivate employees to deliver these services on a higher level. A hotel of my dream is expected to use all the benefits of 21st century trends. Especially when it comes to the LGBT guests. It means that these trends should include human resource potential, advertising possibilities, technical infrastructure and flexible customer policies. All these components are key success factors for the hotels making guests feel positive about coming back to that place again. Besides, it reflects immediately on hotels’ revenues and significantly affects entrepreneurial opportunities in hospitality industry (Thomas M., 2005). I hope to gain all the best qualities of a good hospitality leader who is able to create a comfortable atmosphere for all the guests despite of their sexual preferences. My attempts to bridge the newly emerged trends of the LGBT hospitality market and entrepreneurial efforts can help to build a rewarding system of guest servicing on the international market.
The demand of the 21st century touristic market dictate the necessity to generate revenues from new trends and ideas. The majority of companies connected with hospitality business promote activities for the targeted LGBT groups of consumers. These activities include gay/lesbian travel packages; LGBT events (travel fair in London or Pink corner in Barcelona) or even support national level LGBT movements and networks.
Whatever campaigns are offered for the LGBT clientele, the tourism business have to seize the chance to create an open, tolerant and friendly environment, elaborate policies and travel routes for the LGBT segment. Certainly, there is no need to separate this segment from other consumer groups; however, companies organizing LGBT activities have to remember that “tourism should always be understood as an activity that contributes to sustainability and progress among other things, and non-discrimination against any group in society” (UNWTO, 2012, p.39). Growing tolerance towards the LGBT community enables discussions about the markets’ influence on the travel industry. The idea of “pink dollar” revenues made tour operators, hospitality owners and marketing experts treat the LGBT clientele as a source of disposable income. The DINK (“dual-income-no-kinds”) clients have become optimal clients and excellent spenders. However, the problem with this segment is concealed in the fact that there is no global quantitive research concerning the profitability of the LGBT tours. Small observation samples on travel destinations and mass media advertising may not reflect the true picture. Therefore, the information existing in various sources should be viewed as a kind of encompassing information rather than an exhaustive comprehensive guide on the LGBT travel preferences.
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