Vacation Side Travel – branching out to the LGBT market | TravelResearchOnline

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Vacation Side Travel – branching out to the LGBT market

Every trade publication I pick up these days has at least one article in it where the best practice of focusing on a niche market is shared as a key to success. Well, I finally decided to focus any marketing, training and client acquisition on a specialized area of travel! It took me a year to make the decision and it didn’t come easily because my goal was to book anyone and everyone I possibly could to build my business.

The specialty I chose was a natural one for me – the gay and lesbian market. Primarily, because my partner and I happen to be gay so, it goes without saying that we relate to other gay travelers and will make sure our clients have an unforgettable but safe vacation. I’m also hoping to build a dream client base full of frequent travelers, and think gay people could potentially be the perfect clientele. Statistically, many don’t have children, which equates to more expendable income, plus gay travelers typically take 2-3 leisure vacations each year on top of several weekend getaways.

Although I haven’t put a complete business plan together yet (another shared best practice I see in every trade magazine), I wanted to back my chosen niche up with some numbers and was lucky enough to come across some extensive research done by Community Market Research. According to CMI, a global leader in gay & lesbian research & marketing, there are plenty of reasons to target the LGBT market, no matter what industry. This past year, over 45,000 LGBT consumers from 148 countries responded to CMI’s annual survey, making it the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind.

Some of the interesting facts:

  • 62% are college grads
  • 74% have annual salaries exceeding $50K
  • 91% are employed (of those in the workforce)
  • 29% take a MAJOR vacation every year
  • 14% attended a FUNDRAISING event
  • 48% drank alcohol
  • 32% like businesses on Facebook
  • 22% clicked a Facebook ad
  • 25% read blogs by other gays

On a weekly basis, survey participants:

One statistic that really stood out for me was the fact that 78% of gay consumer are influenced by companies that advertise in the LGBT media. This seems to be a clear sign that I need to turn my efforts and dollars in that direction!

Now, here are a few of the things gay people are MOST influenced by with regard to LGBT outreach in the media:

  • 70% say they won’t stay at hotel or with a brand if they don’t market to gays.
  • 66%  for tours, cruises and vacation packages
  • 55% refuse to support at a place that doesn’t put the rainbow flag out at least once a year.

My biggest hurdle in deciding to shift my focus was the fact that I didn’t want to segregate clients, especially starting from zero clients; but ultimately, I think I have a lot to offer our local Nashville gay community. Sexual orientation aside, we all stay in the same hotel rooms and get our legs crammed in the same airplane seats, but I still think specialized travel for gays and lesbians is necessary, at least for now.

So, I’ve been brainstorming things I can do to drum up new business from the gay community and have already started on some of them. For example, I volunteered to write a travel column in a local gay media publication which will get me some free exposure in print. I also know I want to give back to the community; so I’m looking into putting together a fundraiser cruise which will benefit local anti-bullying and HIV/AIDS education efforts. I also bought Cruises4Causes.com and plan to build out a micro site with relevant content to help SEO and lead generation.

While I was searching for domains, I also snagged WonderGay.com and GayTravelExperts.com. Of course, I still have my actual agency website which will continue to serve as the primary business identity and brand. I think I’m obsessed with domain names and finding good ones to buy – I think there’s something very satisfying and potentially rewarding about a good domain name, provided the site is loaded with unique and informative content, and a good use of keywords. I’m way too embarrassed to reveal how many domain names I actually own but I will say it’s a hobby of mine.

I’d love to know what you’ve done in your travel business to promote your niche specialty, grow your client base or any strategic partnerships you formed to help foster growth.  I know that many travel agents have been doing it for 15-20+ years so it’d be interesting to hear about challenges in the past, too.

Steven Talbott is the founder of Vacation Side Travel, a gay owned-and-operated agency located near Nashville, Tennessee specializing in gay & lesbian (LGBT) tours, cruises, vacations and travel. Through their division Gay Travel Experts, clients are offered an expert travel concierge, unbiased personal assistants who help research and plan travel. 

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