The recent COVID-19 pandemic has brought travel and tourism to a screeching halt, but in recent days we have seen states begin to devise and, in some cases, implement their strategies for slowly reopening. Although this will surely be a long and tedious process, it is important that your destination develop a marketing strategy to get ahead of the curve, for lack of a better phrase.
During a normal year, destinations compete for LGBTQ tourism using traditional and sometimes antiquated methods, such as gay pride events and circuit parties. However, this year many of those larger events have been cancelled or postponed. And even if a pride event is now scheduled for October/November, chances are that attendance will be lower than previous years and the number of tourists attending these events may decline as well.
With more than $1 Trillion dollars of buying power and a lot of disposable income, the LGBTQ community will most likely come out swingin’ when it comes to resuming travel. History and research have shown that this community is one of the first to resume travel after periods of uncertainty. This time it will be a bit different though. Instead of heading to a city for a pride event or abundant nightlife scene, LGBTQ people, especially those with families, will be searching for destinations with outdoor activities or attractions which limit the number of guests. Until a vaccine, or sufficient treatment is developed, people are going to take a more cautious approach to travel.
Here are some ideas to make your destination top of mind for LGBTQ travelers:
Start Marketing Now!
If everyone waits until the country is fully operational, your destination will be competing with hundreds of others for the same customers. Why not be one of the first movers in the space and gain a bit of a first-mover advantage over the competition? Start your marketing and public relations efforts now, especially since you cannot count on a pride event to lure LGBTQ travelers.
Drive Markets Are Key
I think many destinations always rely of drive market’s, but this is more important than ever given the current climate. As someone who used to travel twice a month, I am going to be overly cautious to get on a plane or any form of mass transportation. Although you will have a section of the LGBTQ community who will jump on a plane at the first available opportunity, a lot of people are going to be hesitant. It is a lot safer for a family or group of friends to jump in a car and visit your destination. Market to those within a 6-hour drive, or maybe a bit further. I think many of us wouldn’t mind taking a much needed road trip.
Create an Itinerary
In the past, travelers would either create an itinerary prior to arriving in a city or simply wait until they arrived and play it by ear. In the near term, I think it would be beneficial for destinations to publish LGBTQ-friendly itineraries on their websites and offer a section of low-contact options such as hiking, white water rafting, outdoor attractions, etc. It will also be important to note what attractions are open to the public and the terms of operation.
Designate an LGBTQ Liaison
Some destinations like Fort Lauderdale are lucky enough to have a person on their staff who specifically works with the LGBTQ market. If your destination does not have this luxury, find someone on staff who identifies as LGBTQ or reach out to a few community leaders who can serve as a point of contact for LGBTQ travelers should they need assistance while visiting your city. You would not have a Hispanic person talk on behalf of the African American community, nor should you expect a straight person to understand the wants and needs of the LGBTQ community.
Joey Amato is the owner of Agency33, a consulting firm specializing in LGBTQ marketing and public relations. He has spent over a decade in LGBTQ media and has implemented LGBTQ campaigns for numerous destinations, celebrities, corporations, and small businesses. For more information, visit www.agency33pr.com.