Cape Town – First off, they’re really not THAT different to straight travellers and shouldn’t be treated like anomalies.
But at the same time, it is more important than ever before for destinations to make sure that they come across as welcoming, inclusive and safe for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals in their marketing material.
This fine balance to be kept between including LGBT travellers in products and marketing to them exclusively formed the backbone to an important conversation between LoAnn Halden, media relations director for International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and David Ryan, founder of Out2Africa and Rhino Africa Safaris at the 2nd World Travel Market Africa in Cape Town.
Both Halden and Ryan agreed that while LGBT travellers have the desire to be treated equally to their straight counterparts and, basically, ‘blend in,’ they also still needed to be overtly assured of the fact that they would be safe, especially when travelling in Africa, which is still considered to be largely hostile to this market.
During their discussion five things came to light that straight travellers might not realise about their LGBT counterparts, and destination marketers should keep in mind when trying to attract the so-called ‘pink dollar.’
“If you’re using straight models in advertising material targeting us, we’re going to pick it up!”
While made light-heartedly by Halden, this statement conveys something of how important authenticity is to travellers across the board, including those who identify as LGBT.
She added that if companies or destinations are interested in attracting LGBT travellers, they should make an effort to get involved with the community in one way or another to find out what makes them tick. Genuine interest can go a very long way.
Instead of having a separate set of advertisements, a different website and an entirely alternative approach to the LGBT market, airlines, hotels, destinations etc should consider merely integrating this emerging market with their existing one.
For example, an LGBT couple/family could be included in a photograph depicting a destination’s demographic, instead of being targeted separately.
While it is still a relatively small section of the global travel market, there are a number of resources focusing on LGBT travel.
One of these is IGLTA, which has established itself as the leading global travel network in this field. Founded in 1983, IGLTA now works in more than 80 countries across all six continents. Their main aim is to provide a platform for LGBT travellers to connect with the businesses that welcome them across the globe.
Locally, Out2Africa has played a major role in welcoming gay travellers in search of a memorable holiday to Southern Africa. They specialise in luxury travel for individuals, couples, families and small groups. According to their website “if you’re looking for a cruise ship filled with 300 grinding young men in speedos, then you’re in the wrong place,” emphasising once again that being a gay traveller is really not that different from being a straight one.
As a cultural minority there is a strong sense of community among those who identify as LGBT, which mean that events play an integral role in celebrating and bringing together.
Widely considered to be the gay capital of not only South Africa, but Africa as a whole, Cape Town is at the helm of gay events, with Knysna closely affiliated.
Between 27 April and 3 May, these two destinations will be tickled pink with a wide array of fabulous events making up gay extraveganza week.
Starting off with Mr Gay World Cape Town & Knysna on Sunday 26 April, the week will be a celebration of note in the LGBT community with the Wigstock Premium Drag Event and the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival starting on Wednesday 29 April. All the events will conclude on Sunday, 3 May.
Later in the year, Gauteng will have its turn to celebrate with Soweto Pride happening throughout the month of September and then Joburg Pride taking place on 25 October.
Finally, the highlight of the gay events calendar has got to be MCQP, which takes place in the Cape Town during December every year. The date has not been set for 2015, but it normally takes place round about the 16th.
While festive events and the 'party scene' have always been associated with gay travellers, IGLTA has noticed the emergence of two interesting alternative trends in recent times: weddings and adventure.
Since same-sex marriage is still illegal in a number of countries, South Africa's liberal legislation - combined with beautiful scenery and affordable venues - serves as a major drawcard for LGBT travellers those looking to tie the knot.
On the adventure front, South Africa is already considered to be a hot spot for exhilarating outdoor experiences, so companies such as Out2Africa play an important role in marketing it as such to the market.