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How to Engage LGBT Travelers Online
When Hanns Ebensten, the "father of gay travel," hosted his first gay tour—a rafting trip down the Colorado River—in 1973, he probably couldn't have predicted that less than 50 years later, the fledgling industry would be booming. In 2014, the annual spend on tourism by LGBT people across the world exceeded $200 billion for the first time.
Since the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York led to the creation of a global gay rights movement, Pride marches and festivals have appeared across the globe, with cities such as Sao Paolo, Madrid and San Francisco becoming prime travel destinations for LGBT travelers. Adoption of same-sex marriage laws are also contributing to record numbers of LGBT visitors in wedding destinations like Hawaii, Buenos Aires and New Zealand. Then there are the increasing number of tours specifically designed for LGBT single travelers, couples, groups and families. Even major hotel chains have embraced the boom by introducing travel packages and microsites dedicated to LGBT travelers.
Smart solopreneurs and companies have realized that the LGBT demographic travels more frequently and is wealthier than their straight counterparts, and have seen fantastic results by honing their marketing strategy to attract LGBT customers.
According to the Out Now Global LGBT Travel Industry Survey, 58% of organizations that conduct targeted marketing experience increased LGBT demographic bookings as a direct outcome. And 90% of organizations experienced positive outcomes. A perfect example of this is the widely acclaimed Marriott Hotels LGBT outreach campaign “Love Travels", which took the hotel chain from a #5 ranking in 2009 to the #1 ranking for LGBT travelers in 2015.
If you're interested in leveraging LGBT demand for travel services, the first thing you need to do is create a solid plan for reaching and engaging these consumers via digital channels. Here are four things you can do to get started.
Create an appealing website
The first thing that most LGBT travelers do when researching your product or service is go to your website. In fact, 70% of LGBT travelers report that having an LGBT website makes them more likely to visit a destination, so it's vital to have a website that appeals to this audience.
One way to do this is by creating a microsite that takes advantage of the .LGBT top-level domain (TLD). Unique TLDs have become marketing tools that help businesses build awareness and generate leads; they've proven to be particularly effective for attracting specific demographics (think the .IO TLD for techies).
The vast majority of LGBT travelers already report that they look more favorably on businesses that have LGBT microsites and imagery. A .LGBT microsite only boosts the appeal, while helping define your brand.
Engage through social media
The LGBT community is highly engaged with social content and digital ads, and around 32% of LGBT travelers say that LGBT travel Facebook pages influence their destination selections.
Savvy marketers can engage this demographic by sharing useful information and content . Before you do, however, research the specific needs and pain points within your target group, and above all else, avoid stereotyping the entire LGBT community by associating specific colors, habits, language or images with one group. LGBT travelers have proven to be a loyal consumer group, but they will often complain about marketers who resort to simply posting "gay" images.
Utilize targeted email marketing campaigns
Email marketing is generally one of the easiest ways for companies to engage their consumers, and the LGBT community has proven to it. In the United States, 41% of gay males and 45% of lesbians read LGBT email newsletters, while 30% of LGBT travelers say that LGBT travel email newsletters influenced their destination selections.
Email marketing allows you to personalize your marketing campaigns by targeting specific segments of your audience. For example, if you're introducing a new beach vacation tour to Tahiti for LGBT families, you can create a personalized email marketing campaign for LGBT families who have shown interest in beach vacations or Tahiti in the past year. Campaigns such as this often result in increased conversions simply because they are specifically targeted.
Incorporate online video marketing
Video has proven to be more effective than text for grabbing customers' attention, keeping them engaged and connecting with them emotionally. Studies have shown that the average user spends 88% more time on a website with a video, and that one-third of all online activity is dedicated to watching video. Among the LGBT community, 38% of gay males and 30% of lesbians watch LGBT-related streaming video.
YouTube is still the main source of online video for the web, and that goes for LGBT video as well. Annual viewership of LGBT content on YouTube grew 76% in 2016, with about five billion views expected this year. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of YouTube viewers surveyed who self-identified as LGBT said they're more likely to buy from a brand that includes LGBT people and messages in their ads. Therefore, a well-designed marketing campaign that incorporates YouTube video could be the ideal tactic for reaching and engaging the LGBT traveler audience.
LGBT travelers have shown a preference for brands that support and represent their concerns and preferences. By understanding their digital habits and creating LGBT-exclusive content and conversations, you'll be able to authentically engage the LGBT travel community, and convert more of its members to clients.