Gay Travel Outlook 2008 & The 'Gay Marriage Gold Rush'
By Jeff Guaracino Vice President, Communications, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp | October 2008
Higher gas prices, exuberant airfare and new fees, and rising prices on everyday necessities mean that hoteliers are working harder to fill their rooms and to increase their revenue per available room in this struggling global economy. Hoteliers are luring customers with incentives from gas cards, food and beverage credits and even loyalty programs to off-set the higher costs of traveling.
Considering the state of travel industry and changing travel patterns, is not a surprise to anyone that 2008 is optimistically predicted to be relatively flat. In some markets hotel general managers say they are being asked by corporate headquarters to lower their already budgeted occupancy levels.
As the economy dips, hotels and others within the hospitality industry are again turning their attention to what may be this year's shining star, the gay and lesbian traveler. They are loyal, resilient and as a group, they have more discretionary income when compared to other groups, almost $800 billion. More, historically, they continue to travel even in tough economic times, even after 9/11.
2008 should prove to be another record year in gay travel, spurred in-part by the "gay marriage rush" (or civil union or domestic partnership) in the United States. An entirely new reason for gay travel is taking hold in states like California, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey and in other countries like Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden. According to the newest research study by Community Marketing Inc., gay and lesbian travelers are spending $64 billion a year on travel in the U.S., almost $12 billion more than just two years ago. Community Marketing Incorporated and other research firms like Out Now Consulting in the UK are beginning to measure and the economy impact of gay marriage or civil unions in the travel industry.
Gay travelers spend money on their hotel stays if they have seen your hotel as part of a gay marketing campaign. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) reports in its Gay Travel 2005 research study that gay visitors to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who were wooed to the destination by the organization's $300,000 "Philadelphia Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay(R)" marketing campaign spent nearly double on hotel stay and stayed longer than those gay travelers who did not see the marketing effort.
As for overall travel spending, a 2007 study by the Travel Industry of America in partnership with Harris Interactive(R) and Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc. found that gay men, whether traveling alone or in groups, tend to spend more on trips than lesbians and heterosexuals. Gay men traveling alone spent nearly a third more on their total trip expenses ($800 on average) than did heterosexuals traveling alone ($540 on average). Gay men traveling as a group spent $3,070, which was more than reported by heterosexual groups ($2,870) or lesbians traveling together ($2,740). These figures should remain consistent in 2008.