As Pride celebrations are continuing across the world throughout July, #pridematters is this year’s focus, with the aim of understanding what really matters to the community. This offers an excellent opportunity for reflection: do brands in travel and leisure fully understand what is important to this community, and are they truly acting as allies where it matters?
Research by UNWTO indicates that while the LGBTQ+ community represent around 6% of the population, their spending in travel reaches up to 10%. On average, as a segment they take 4-6 trips a year compared to the overall average of 1-2, and spend 33% more than others on travel in total. With one company specialising in curating hotels and experiences specifically for this community, turning over 1bn in just 3 months, it’s clear that this is a group of people with an interest in travel and the ability to enjoy it.
This is not, however, a homogenous group, nor should segmentation or consumer profiles be built on this identification. Factors such as lifestyle and age still have a bigger impact on habits. Members of the LGBTQ+ community also have varying experiences whilst travelling abroad. A Virgin study of 2016 found that 23% of respondents felt they were treated differently, with the same proportion also feeling the need to act differently on holiday. 63% stated that they would choose their holiday destination based on attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people in that area, and that 80% felt they were not supported by brands.
In a more recent study by Virgin, it was discovered that while around 8 out of 10 straight couples (84%) are comfortable showing affection abroad, only 5% of homosexual couples would do the same. Worse, there are many countries considered to be high risk for LGBTQ+ travellers to visit. With MPs in the UK advising LGBTQ+ football fans visiting Russia for the world cup to be cautious, perhaps what is needed is allies, who will work to make holiday destinations safe spaces, and be vocal about the need for risks to be combatted where they exist most dangerously. The role for a brand, therefore, is not necessarily to create products for LGBTQ+ or targeted marketing, but to help drive positive change in the area.
The benefit of aligning a brand with these values goes beyond the LGBTQ+ community itself. Equality in gender identity and sexual orientation is high on the list of social issues that people care about, be it because of a friends and family members giving a personal link to the community, or simply because it aligns with general outlooks and values. Proving that your brand cares about addressing issues and barriers that the LGBTQ+ community face, and better yet making a stand to keep driving progress, is of benefit to everyone, and of great social importance today.