Exploring New Markets: The Gay & Lesbian Opportunity

By Darrell Schuurman Co-Founder, Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce | October 28, 2008

The hotel industry, and the tourism industry in general, has changed dramatically over the last several years. Everything from war, terrorism, the economy, the fluctuating exchange rates, and a variety of other negative travel influencers have made the industry much more volatile and challenging than ever before. The fight for market share has gotten tougher, and hotels have started to see the need to find new ways to grow that diminishing share.

So in an industry that remains increasingly competitive, how do you prevent a decrease in your market share, and what opportunities are there for you to grow your market share? One way is through diversification in your target markets. Hoteliers and the tourism industry need to look at alternative sources to tap into and to draw on.

The gay and lesbian market is one market that hotels and other tourism-based companies have for too long overlooked, or simply chose to ignore. But can the industry continue to ignore this market? Can you? The simple answer, in my opinion, is no. And why would you want to?

Most hoteliers understand the importance of diversifying their markets, but many aren't completely sold on the gay and lesbian market. I've identified three main reasons for why you and your hotel should choose to target this market.

1. Size of the Market

According to San Francisco based company Community Marketing Inc (www.communitymarketinginc.com), the US gay and lesbian travel market is worth an estimated $54.1 billion per year, or approximately 10% of the total US travel industry. Research shows that this market has a higher discretionary income, with 76% having household incomes above the national average. Not only do they have higher discretionary income, but they also tend to spend more when travelling. Is that really a market you want to continue to ignore?

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Businesses must evolve to stay competitive and this is also true of employment positions within those organizations. In the hotel industry, for example, the role that HR professionals perform continues to broaden and expand. Today, they are generally responsible for five key areas - government compliance; payroll and benefits; employee acquisition and retention; training and development; and organizational structure and culture. In this enlarged capacity, HR professionals are no longer seen as part of an administrative cost center, but rather as a member of the leadership team that creates strategic value within their organization. HR professionals help to define company policies and plans; enact and enforce systems of accountability; and utilize definable metrics to measure and justify outcomes. Of course, there are always new issues for HR professionals to address. Though seemingly safe for the moment, will the Affordable Care Act ultimately be repealed and replaced and, if so, what will the ramifications be? There are issues pertaining to Millennials in the workforce and women in leadership roles, as well as determining the appropriate use of social media within the organization. There are new onboarding processes and e-learning training platforms to evaluate, in addition to keeping abreast of political issues like the minimum wage hike movement, or the re-evaluation of overtime rules. Finally, there are genuine immigration and deportation issues that affect HR professionals, especially if they are located in Dreamer Cities, or employ a workforce that could be adversely impacted by federal government policies. The March Hotel Business Review will take a look at some of the issues, strategies and techniques that HR professionals are employing to create and sustain value in their organization.