Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: May 23, 2016

One brush won’t cover all LGBT niches!

Armando Mendonça

(Photo above: Sitges, Spain, which features La Playa De La Bossa Rodona (above), is one of the world’s top LGBT destinations.)

Over the years, I’ve been asked from time to time by my colleagues in the industry where to send their LGBT clients on a vacation, but there is no simple answer as to what makes a destination fill the bill.
In order to understand the travel expectations and trends of any niche market, like LGBT, it’s imperative to spend time on research and development before selling to this market segment – I cannot stress that enough! And as I indicated in my Feb. 29 column, there are many organizations that specialize in the LGBT market that can provide the relevant information, data research, specialized seminars, trade fairs, and marketing tools to establish your business as a preferred LGBT travel agency or tour operator.
There is this myth that LGBT travellers only want exclusive high-end properties, tours and areas that offer a LGBT village-type area. Let me dispel this myth and say that, like most travellers, the key decision factor for clients is feeling safe and inclusive. While there are LGBT-operated and -owned properties that cater specifically to this market segment, affordability, location and amenities are more important.
It is equally critical to understand that there are several niches within the broader LGBT niche. For example, single gay men between the ages of 18 and 25 have different travel expectations, habits and average spend than those aged 26-45. This would also apply to couples, as well within each respective age group, lesbian travellers, etc., and both need to be expertly understood before selling product that is conducive and appropriate.
There are less available statistics, data and travel trends when it comes to bisexual and transgendered travellers that I’m aware of. To understand in more depth the niche within a niche concept, there are detailed reports and data available to further explore the travel needs within each niche segment.
A significant piece of the puzzle in the research and development of the LGBT market is knowing the laws affecting the LGBT communities and how they vary globally which in some cases are very severe. Consequently, those destinations tend to have progressive LGBT laws and appealing infrastructure, such as diverse accommodations that are gay friendly, gay owned or operated, inclusive, and a safe haven.
Three of my favourites for all niches within the gay community, based on providing LGBT accommodation, bars and club nightlife, gay beaches, tours and more importantly a sense of that inclusive feeling and safe, include:
Mykonos, Greece: Located southeast from mainland Greece within the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea, Mykonos is infamously known for its vibrant gay nightlife, beaches and beach bars with world renowned DJs and a myriad of shopping and dining options. The island is approximately three hours via high-speed ferry from the main port of Piraeus or approximately a 35-minute flight from Athens International Airport.
Sitges, Spain: A charming, quaint cobblestone Catalan Spanish town with narrow streets and beautiful beaches and unparalleled gay nightlife. Located on the Mediterranean coast, it is approximately 35 km southwest of Barcelona with easy access by train from Barcelona Sants Train Station.
Provincetown, Mass.: Located at the very tip of Cape Cod in Barnstable County and separated from the mainland by a canal, Provincetown is rich in history and has year- round LGBT festivities/events. Travel time from Boston is approximately two hours by car, however travel by plane, train and local transit are possible. There is limited hotel product compared to B&Bs, so the key is to book well in advance for this bucket list destination.
(Armando Mendonça is a tourism entrepreneur, philanthropist supporting HIV/AIDS charities and LGBT travel expert. He can be reached at: [email protected] .)