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April 17, 2009

Chasing Rainbows: What Do Gay Travelers Want?

Marriott_comeout_dt
The Marriott's "OUT in New York" package includes breakfast for two and a charitable donation.
Courtesy of Marriott.com

by Sara Tucker

Now that pink is the new green, gay and lesbian travelers, whose vacation spending boosts the U.S. economy by an estimated $70 billion a year, are being courted as never before. Even New York City, "birthplace of the gay rights movement" and the niche's undisputed grande dame, is out on the street, shakin' her booty with the competition.

Not everyone is amused. When state legislators got wind last summer that South Carolina was being touted abroad as a gay-friendly destination, an international flap ensued and the offending ads were pulled. "Nothing like Southern hospitality," commented Gay Agenda. More recently, Congressman Steve King warned Iowans their state could become a "gay marriage Mecca" if they don't watch out. (Best comeback, from a Political Ticker reader: "Oh my! We can't have gays come to Iowa. That might lead to . . . dancing!!")

Possibly more disturbing, from a marketing perspective, is the growing suspicion that non-heterosexual travelers are an awful lot like heterosexual ones.

In other words, not so easy to target. The notion of a GLBT travel niche is one that marketers in Philly and San Francisco were already calling outmoded ("so nineties") two years ago. The non-heterosexual population is so diverse, they say, that "gay South Carolina" is hardly more useful as a marketing tool than, say, "straight Seattle." Destinations have got to try harder. But how?

For the record: There is some dispute over whether the "pink dollar" actually exists. That said, those wishing to capture some of the much-coveted cash might begin by studying the following partial list:

Things Gay People Like:
* Cruises
* Concierges
* Coffee
* Cowboys
* Beaches
* Food
* Spas
* Traveling with the kids
* Dancing

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