Gay Marketing: Creating Partnerships
By Darrell Schuurman Co-Founder, Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce | October 28, 2008
In my previous articles, I've talked about the benefits of targeting the gay and lesbian travel market, and what this market looks for when travelling. However, when trying to reach a new market like this for your property, it can be somewhat overwhelming, requiring both time and financial commitments. Depending on the size of your property, you may not have a sufficient supply of resources to put behind your new entry into the gay and lesbian market. That's where partnerships can play an important supportive role. By forming partnerships within your city or region, you can overcome some of those challenges and thereby facilitate your move into the new market.
Partnerships can take a variety of forms, with an array of partners. There are the traditional partners which could include other businesses within the tourism industry (such as a transportation partner or a bar and restaurant) or your local or regional DMO. But there are the non-traditional partnerships that could prove just as beneficial for your entry into the gay and lesbian travel market. Partnering with gay and lesbian groups and associations (such as business associations, Prides, and other not-for-profits) helps you to demonstrate your support and build closer ties with the local community within your city or region. Recently, Tourism Toronto, Tourism Niagara, and Ontario Tourism partnered with the Ontario Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to host a panel discussion on gay tourism. The outcome was not only a better understanding of the opportunities available for industry, but a chance for industry, DMOs, and non-traditional partners to work together to begin the development of a regional marketing strategy.
The key to looking for partners when entering the gay and lesbian travel market is to ensure your goals are strategically aligned. Your motivators for targeting the market should be similar for the partnership to be most successful and see the greatest returns. Reputation is an essential element. As I've highlighted in previous articles, the gay and lesbian consumer is very loyal towards those companies that have a proven track record of being supportive, and working with partners that have a strong reputation will assist you in gaining the support of the market. Keep in mind, however, that the opposite is also true, and if you're partnering with a company that has a poor reputation, this may have a poor reflection on your property.
There are distinct advantages for creating partnerships when trying to reach the gay and lesbian travel market. Perhaps one of the most motivating advantages is cost sharing. By partnering with destination marketing organizations and other businesses within the industry, you can pool financial resources to allow the development and implementation of a gay and lesbian strategy. For example, when a region is considering targeting the gay travel market, research studies are often conducted in partnership with both industry and government. This allows all partners to have a much better understanding of the market at a significant cost savings than if they had undertaken the research on their own. Another example is in promotional activities, where regions have the ability to pool their marketing dollars to create campaigns that benefit all partners. Through co-op advertising, a variety of businesses are able to promote themselves to a much larger consumer base as compared to the results from an individual property based campaign. Not only is this done largely at the local level, but this has also been successful at the national level. The Canadian Tourism Commission has activated campaigns with partners like Air Canada, Fairmont Hotels, and Tourism Montreal. The result is a significantly larger 'bang for their buck' by allowing them to have a greater reach in the marketing campaign.
A second advantage to partnerships is the sharing of resources, beyond just financial. Properties don't necessarily have the ability to dedicate the full time staff and resources required when entering a new niche market like the gay and lesbian travel market. By pooling resources, such as manpower, time, and specific skills, properties are able to accomplish more than what an individual business can do on its own.
Through partnering, businesses are also able to benefit by tapping into expertise of their partners. Businesses new to the gay and lesbian travel market especially can benefit by sharing of ideas, and learning from the successes, and even failures, of others that may have been in the market longer. They may have a better understanding of the market specific to your destination, and can assist to set new action plans/strategies based on historic activities. A great example of this can be seen in Montreal where Tourism Montreal has been active within the gay and lesbian travel market for several years and they have become one of the leaders in the market; hotels that are interested in beginning to target this market are wise to work closely with Tourism Montreal to learn from their expertise.