Many of the same reasons that make the LGBTQ+ market segment unusually valuable for travel brands and destinations are the same ones that make them important to the travel recovery: On average, we have more disposable income and fewer children than our mainstream counterparts. We’re resilient, we’re loyal, and we’re easily reached through LGBTQ+ media and social media targeting.
A recent survey from the IGLTA, the International LGBTQ Travel Association, shows LGBTQ+ travelers more confident and likely to resume travel than their mainstream counterparts benchmarked against data from MMGY. Behind the confidence is a unique psychographic profile that is specifically relevant to the Covid recovery: Our relationship to risk. Travel has always been riskier for LGBTQ+ travelers. Gay and Lesbian identities are still criminalized in 70 countries. Transgender and Gender-Non-Conforming people have to worry about whether they’ll be safe using a public restroom (and other acts of discrimination and even violence.) We don’t know if culturally-competent healthcare will be available if we get sick away from home. Sometimes we are targeted by other travelers or by the authorities charged to protect us. And we’ve learned a lot about risk management from HIV.
WHAT HIV CAN TEACH US ABOUT COVID
We are less afraid of SARS-CoV-2 (Covid19) because of our experience with HIV — another lethal virus that forced us to rethink physical, social and intimate human contact. We learned to live with the virus — paying close attention to the science, and focusing on conventional and innovative ways to reduce risk. We got comfortable with discussing our HIV status, risk tolerance and health strategy with those in close enough contact to put each other at risk. And we championed those behaviours throughout the community. There are some critical differences between HIV and Covid19. But the strategies adopted by the LGBTQ+ community in living with HIV have better prepared us to face any viral challenge.
THE LGBTQ+ TRAVEL RECOVERY HAS ALREADY STARTED
LGBTQ+ people don’t have less fear, we’ve learned to better manage our risk. And that has allowed many of us to start traveling again, and not just by car. My social feed is already filling with pictures of my queer friends and colleagues flying — even across oceans, and in most cases, to places where the adherence to safety protocols is equal or higher than it is at home. I’ve experienced it myself, relocating to Germany in July and traveling to Portugal in August. Both countries have managed the pandemic well — and the evidence of that made me feel safe and responsible. Frankfurt airport offers free testing to all arriving passengers. My last test took 11 minutes and the results were back in 9 hours. Walking into The Late Birds hotel in Lisbon, my temperature was checked, the soles of my shoes and my hands were disinfected, and everyone wore masks in the lobby. Social distancing was maintained outside at the pool. I saw and met other gay travelers throughout Lisbon, an unusually visible percentage in the absence of more mainstream visitors.
MAKING LGBTQ+ TRAVEL A PART OF YOUR RECOVERY
If you’re not already engaged in the LGBTQ+ segment in a meaningful way and want to gain our business, you’ll need to do more than pop a rainbow flag in your window. You’ll need community expertise to avoid the common pitfalls and create the authentic welcome that is at the heart of success in the segment. I’ve heard many reports from U.S. hotels and resorts that are not enforcing their own policies on masks and social distancing. No matter how good your Cleveland Clinic/Clorox/Lysol protocols are, if you allow other guests to break your rules and increase our risk, you’ll lose our business — just as you’ll lose it if you fail to protect us from the homophobic or transphobic behavior of the other customers and staff in your establishments.
LOOK TO THE RAINBOW
At HospitableMe, we’ve helped some of the world’s most innovative and respected brands with LGBTQ+ strategy, marketing and education, from NYC & Company’s extraordinary campaign promoting World Pride 2019, to Booking.com’s new Proud Hospitality partner certification program. If our expertise isn’t exactly right for you, we’ll connect you with our expert colleagues, partners and friends at OutThere, EveryQueer, Sonder, Q.Digital, Pink Media, Community Marketing and Insights, Witeck Communications, The Equality Institute and Communify — just to name a few. We’re proud to be part of a community that understands the imperative of open cooperation and collaboration to build a better future. And we invite you to join us as we chart a path through this current crisis. There will be many forks in the road to recovery. You’ll do well to follow the rainbow.