WTM 2010: Firms falling short on gay-friendly welcome

Companies claiming to be gay friendly are still falling short of the mark, a new survey reveals.

The study of 8,000 people in the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) market in the UK, and 30,000 globally, has shown many destinations and hotels are keen to claim they are gay friendly, without having put the work in to ensure they are.

Ian Johnson, chief executive of LGBT marketing firm Out Now Consulting which compiled the study, will on Wednesday at WTM urge companies to do more to ensure they are satisfying the market.

He said: “These days, suddenly everyone wants to be “gay friendly” and frankly, that has made today’s LGBT consumers extremely wary of the bona-fides of the welcome being extended.

“Even the phrase “gay friendly” is pretty hackneyed and does absolutely nothing to rescue a holiday that can be ruined when a stay feels far less than welcoming for a lesbian couple because of their experience at check-in, or for two gay men when ordering room service to the honeymoon suite.

“The number one factor that LGBT travellers hope for when they travel away from home is an equal and genuine welcome, which means that travel providers need to improve their communications and behaviours.

“So that LGBT people can enjoy what every other customer has taken for granted for years: the chance to simply be themselves on their vacation. It seems obvious that when we go on holidays we all want to relax and feel comfortable.

“The industry needs to lift its game on the staff training front if it is going to deliver on the promises being made to LGBT travellers.

“The message to the travel industry is clear. It‘s no longer good enough to tick an equality box, fly a rainbow flag or join an LGBT trade association because that’s not going to deliver the level of experience that today’s LGBT customers want. Improvements need to be made.”

Johnson added the UK LGBT market has remained resilient despite the economic downturn, claiming the market is now worth £5.1 billion annually, compared to £4.9 billion in 2007-2008.

The top three destinations globally are USA, Australia and France while the first three European cities are Paris, Amsterdam and Rome.

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