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What is the Future of LGBTQ Travel?

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 6/8/2020 Paul Heney
a group of people performing on stage in front of a crowd: Tel Aviv Pride Parade © RnDmS/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus Tel Aviv Pride Parade

In recent years, LGBTQ consumers have been avid travelers, venturing to family-friendly gatherings in Provincetown, partying in Fort Lauderdale or Madrid, cruising in Europe, or looking for the hottest new urban or beach getaway.

While some are cautious travelers, especially in regions where the political climate affords them fewer protections, it’s not a stretch to say that many of them are adventurous and open to new experiences.

So, in a post-COVID-19 world, what may LGBTQ travel look like?

A recent Harris Poll, conducted from May 6-8, found that whether traveling or not in the near-term, LGBT respondents reported feeling more comfortable making some specific travel choices:

– Traveling to a U.S. destination: 64% LGBT vs. 58% non-LGBT adults.

– Staying in a hotel: 59% LGBT vs. 50% non-LGBT adults.

– Staying at an Airbnb: 43% LGBT vs. 35% non-LGBT adults.

– Flying commercial aircraft: 43% LGBT vs. 35% non-LGBT adults.

– Traveling to Europe: 35% LGBT vs. 28% non-LGBT adults.

– Attending a crowded event, concert, theme park or beach: 33% LGBT vs. 25% non-LGBT.

– Taking a cruise: 31% LGBT vs. 23% non-LGBT.

“Americans so often feel travel is their lifeblood,” said Erica Parker, Managing Director of The Harris Poll. “Our newest benchmark reveals how conflicted, uncertain or confused many of us feel balancing our need to travel with health risks and cautions. It’s especially enlightening to contrast similarities and differences among us, including LGBT travelers.”

“Past research tells us travel remains a high priority for LGBT consumers — even when overcoming setbacks,” said Bob Witeck, President of Witeck Communications, an LGBT market expert. “We witnessed this in 2001 following 9/11, as well as post-recession in 2009 when LGBT adults showed strong personal appetite to travel once again. As conditions permit, and the economy reopens, we anticipate LGBT travelers again will be found towards the front of many lines at airports, hotels and desirable destinations.”

We asked John Tanzella, IGLTA President/CEO how he thinks LGBTQ travel will change, post COVID-19, if at all.

“Interestingly, nearly half of the respondents to our Post Covid-19 LGBTQ+ travel survey said they would not change the types of destinations they choose to visit after the coronavirus situation is resolved, reflecting a high degree of destination loyalty amid the uncertainty (25% of respondents are still undecided). It will take longer for large LGBTQ+ events to return, but once the threat is past, the desire to gather among like-minded people will prevail,” he said.

IGLTA’s Post Covid-19 LGBTQ+ Travel Survey was conducted between April 16 and May 12, and focused on the likelihood of LGBTQ+ individuals choosing a variety of travel-related activities in the next six months, again showcasing strong interest from the segment:

– 48% are likely/very likely to stay in a hotel or resort

– 57% are likely/very likely to take a domestic leisure trip

– 34% are likely/very likely to stay in a vacation home, condo or rental apartment

– 29% are likely/very likely to take an international leisure trip

– 20% are likely/very likely to visit an amusement park

– 21% are likely/very likely to take a group trip

– 13% are likely/very likely to take a cruise

– 45% are likely/very likely to take a short-haul flight (3 hours or less)

– 35% are likely/very likely to take a medium-haul flight (3-6 hours)

– 27% are likely/very likely to take a long-haul flight (6 hours or more)

– 33% are likely/very likely to attend an LGBTQ+ Pride Event

Ed Salvato, Co-author of the Handbook of LGBT Tourism & Hospitality, said that overall, LGBTQ Travelers—and especially those with dual income and no children—exhibit characteristics and behaviors in travel that are very appealing to marketers.

“For example, they are much more likely to travel in general, travel spontaneously, spend more money when they travel, travel for a longer period of time, etc. For LGBTQ travelers, the desire to go and meet others like themselves is a deep and powerful motivator. It is a need,” Salvato said.

“Psycho-graphically, LGBTQ people—especially gay men and lesbians—have been at the forefront of epidemiological and health issues for decades starting with the AIDS crisis. They understand the importance of health precautions. And they understand the benefit of those precautions. I think the statistic also reflects a trust in the public health steps that I’ve been recommending for traveling and the fact that LGBTQ people understand the importance of adhering to public health guidelines (like wearing a mask, sanitizing and maintaining social distance). LGBTQ people have been exercising many of those steps for decades,” he added.

Tanzella thinks LGBTQ travelers will be quicker to re-embrace travel, as this first wave of the pandemic slowly flattens.

“The recent Harris Poll and IGLTA’s Post Covid-19 LGBTQ+ Travel Survey both support the resilience and loyalty of the LGBTQ+ travel community and indicate that when travel resumes, they will be among the first ones who are open to getting back out there.”

“Drive and quick easy getaway trips will be the first to come back,” said Salvato. “I think also short-haul air flights. Later will be longer-haul air flights. I also think cruises and all-inclusive resorts will come fast for both markets. People who love these styles of vacation love them. In the gay world, I think gays will be quicker to book a cruise or all gay all-inclusive.”

“The general consensus is that domestic travel will come back first, and this will hold true for LGBTQ+ travelers, too,” agreed Tanzella.

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