Outlets up focus on gay, lesbian travelers

Over the past decade, gays and lesbians have emerged as one of the most sought-after consumer demographics. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the travel industry.

Over the past decade, gays and lesbians have emerged as one of the most sought-after consumer demographics. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the travel industry.

Whether it's traditional destinations like San Francisco and Provincetown, MA, or newer
"hot spots" like Fort Lauderdale, FL, and Philadelphia, there is now fierce competition among cities to position themselves as gay-friendly.

"Gays and lesbians usually have an incredible amount of disposable income and they travel a lot, since many don't have children," notes Jason Coletta, SAE with New York-based Laura Davidson Public Relations.

Along with this boom has come a rise in the number of outlets targeting the gay and lesbian traveler. However, Jeff Guaracino, communications VP with the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation and author of the upcoming book, Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing, says that even the general travel press has taken notice.

"I always tell people not to limit themselves to the gay publications," he explains, "because more and more of the mainstream outlets are covering these segments."

Ed Salvato, editor-in-chief of OutTraveler, stresses that you do need a lot more than general travel amenities and activities to reach this audience.

"The standard travel story [that gets] pitched [to media] doesn't go very far," he adds. "You need to make it almost like an invite to gays and lesbians so that they know they will be welcome and have fun, interesting things to do."

In many cases, this may be a specific event, like a gay rodeo. But there are also plenty of seasonal angles. "One of the best seasonal hooks is Gay Pride Month, which [occurs] every June," says Coletta.
But Salvato says even traditional travel hooks like the holidays can benefit from a gay/lesbian angle.

"We had a very successful piece, 'Home away from Home for the Holidays,' because a lot of gay people are not that happy going home," he explains. "[They] may not feel their partner is welcome, so they look for alternatives."

Guaracino, whose work on the successful 2003 campaign "Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay" helped put Philadelphia on the gay map, stresses, "You can't view gay and lesbian travel as a monolithic market. You want to be going after different groups like gay families or lesbians, as well as single gay men."

Regardless of the pitch, Salvato warns that any PR effort aimed at gays and lesbians must walk the walk.

"You can't really market to gays and lesbians," he explains, "if your destination or state is legislatively hostile to [them]."

PITCHING... Gay, lesbian vacationers

Gay and lesbian vacationers seek amenities and good value. But if you're pitching the gay-travel press, you'll need a specific hook, such as an event or activity, to separate your client from the typical travel destination

Look for seasonal angles - especially those tied to Gay Pride Month - as a way to get the general travel press to cover gay and lesbian vacationers

As in the straight population, there are many sub-segments within the gay and lesbian community, so tailor your different pitches to appeal to gay families, lesbians, couples, and singles

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