June is called Pride Month—a time to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer / questioning (LGBTQ+) community and aspire to achieve basic equality and human rights. Last year, New York City celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots—a milestone in the gay liberation movement—and nearly 5 million people gathered in Manhattan for the World Pride event. There were high hopes that 2020 would be another memorable year, with huge celebrations planned in many cities and countries. Unfortunately, these hopes have died, or at least been postponed, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Golden Egg for Tourism
Pride events are one of the biggest motivations for LGBTQ+ tourists to travel, at home and abroad. There are many thousands of travel-related products and services, including airline discounts, hotels, parties, and entertainment catered to this market. However, due to Covid-19, many members of the LGBTQ+ community are unable to travel freely.
Does it mean that they will never travel again? No! Travel destinations are promoting their attractions and value via online outreach. The big question is: “When will global travelers return to the tourism industry?”
The result of a recent Covid-19 LGBTQ+ travel survey conducted by the International LGBTQ+ Tourism Association (IGLTA) revealed that 66 percent of the nearly 15,000 global respondents feel comfortable about traveling again for leisure before the end of 2020, with September and October being the most popular choices. In fact, 46 percent of those surveyed said that they would not change the type of destinations they would choose to visit after the coronavirus situation is over. This reflects a high degree of destination loyalty amid worldwide uncertainty.
“Previous studies have shown our community to be a resilient and loyal travel segment, with a tendency to travel more than their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts,” said John Tanzella, IGLTA president and CEO. “We wanted to document their sentiments during this particularly challenging moment in time to remind the tourism industry at large that LGBTQ+ travelers should be a valued part of their recovery plans. Messages of inclusion have the potential to resonate even more strongly with LGBTQ+ travelers now,” he added.
Huge Market Potential
If you think this issue was mostly based in the West, you’d be missing a big opportunity. The results of a 2018 survey of 60,000 people aged 20 to 59 conducted by the advertising giant Dentsu Inc. revealed that 8.9 percent of respondents in Japan self-identified as LGBT.
Domestic travel will emerge again before international travel, but this growing market shouldn’t be ignored. Now is definitely the time to meet it.
As understanding guests’ specific needs and wants is the key to success in the tourism industry, proper training for employees in the hospitality industry is essential to address the specific sensitivities of LGBTQ+ guests.
Tanzella is optimistic about this country as a location for LGBTQ+ tourists to visit. “Japan is a fabulously unique destination and our community is looking forward to visiting soon. We hope this data helps support the need for more Japanese tourism and hospitality businesses to take part in IGLTA.”
The full results of the Covid-19 LGBTQ+ travel survey are available at iglta.org.
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The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association is the global leader in advancing LGBTQ+ travel and a proud Affiliate Member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. IGLTA’s mission is to provide information and resources for LGBTQ+ travelers and expand LGBTQ+ tourism globally by demonstrating its significant social and economic impact. IGLTA membership includes LGBTQ+ individuals and LGBTQ+ welcoming accommodations, destinations, service providers, travel agents, tour operators, events, and travel media in more than 80 countries.