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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Eco-Friendly Practices: The Greening of Your Bottom Line

There are strong moral and ethical reasons why a hotel should incorporate eco-friendly practices into their business but it is also becoming abundantly clear that “going green” can dramatically improve a hotel's bottom line. When energy-saving measures are introduced - fluorescent bulbs, ceiling fans, linen cards, lights out cards, motion sensors for all public spaces, and energy management systems - energy bills are substantially reduced. When water-saving equipment is introduced - low-flow showerheads, low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, and serving water only on request in restaurants - water bills are also considerably reduced. Waste hauling is another major expense which can be lowered through recycling efforts and by avoiding wastefully-packaged products. Vendors can be asked to deliver products in minimal wrapping, and to deliver products one day, and pick up the packaging materials the next day - generating substantial savings. In addition, renewable sources of energy (solar, geothermal, wind, etc.) have substantially improved the economics of using alternative energies at the property level. There are other compelling reasons to initiate sustainability practices in their operation. Being green means guests and staff are healthier, which can lead to an increase in staff retention, as well as increased business from health conscious guests. Also, sooner or later, all properties will be sold, and green hotels will command a higher price due to its energy efficiencies. Finally, some hotels qualify for tax credits, subsidies and rebates from local, regional and federal governments for the eco-friendly investments they've made in their hotels. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document how some hotels are integrating sustainable practices into their operations and how their hotels are benefiting from them.