Kenneth Kiesnoski spoke with Jonathan Klein, owner of Now,
Voyager World Wide Travel Services in San Francisco, about
the LGBT market’s challenges and trends.
Travel Weekly: LGBT travel has long been touted as a sure-fire money-maker. As gays and lesbians gain greater acceptance, is the market living up to the hype?
Jonathan Klein: It’s the way it should be to have everyone
be gay-friendly and welcoming, and there’s been significant strides in the area. But I think that overall, it’s really been overhyped. The number of gay people is, at best
guess, maybe 5% of the population. And within that number, it’s not like every person has all kinds of disposable
income and travels all the time. That being said, for a lot
of gay people, men especially, who are not having financial
difficulties, travel is an important part of their lives.
TW: Can mainstream agents make money selling LGBT
Klein: All travel agents love to sell things like escorted
tours, but for the most part LGBT travelers are not drawn
Community Marketing. “What it means is mainstream ads
that just happen to include LGBT imagery.”
Roth pointed to the new “Land of Dreams” video from
federally funded private-public tourism promotional
partnership Brand USA, which briefly features a gay male
couple cuddling on a New Orleans streetcar (the clip can
Continued from Page 18
to that sort of experience unless it happens to be an all-gay escorted tour, which are very few and far between.
And even then there are LGBT people reluctant to do it
because they’re not sure they want to be stuck with the
same small group of people for the whole trip. Gay cruises
have always been head and shoulders above everything
else. As opposed to an escorted tour, you’re stuck with
2,000 people on a ship rather than 20 on a bus.
TW: OK, should mainstream agents bother selling LGBT
Klein: No travel agent is going to turn away business and
refer it to someone else. I wish they would. Frankly, I do
think that only people who specialize in and have lots of
experience in travel for LGBT people [are aware] of the
many nuances to the market. For mainstream travel, anyone can go on a fam trip to a place and get to know it or
get a visit from a sales rep. But there are no fam trips for
straight agents to experience gay travel. So I don’t think
for a travel agent it’s necessarily something worth the effort of getting into.
be seen at www.youtube.com/yourdiscoveramerica), and a
TV ad from Orbitz that discreetly integrated a rainbow flag
and a polo shirt emblazoned with the logo of gay rights
organization the Human Rights Campaign.
The message? That LGBT travelers and citizens are part
and parcel of American society, neither discriminated
against nor afforded “special” rights, nor cordoned off in
some kind of marketing ghetto.
“A destination doing an ad campaign that only features
TW: What are the trends in LGBT travel?
Klein: For the summertime, we’re booking lots of trip to
Europe, whether it’s a cruise or FIT. During winter, we
used to sell a lot of trips to Hawaii and Mexico. They’re
still the most popular places for gay people, at least on
the West Coast, to go to. But the problem is they’re the
easiest places for consumers to book themselves online,
especially if travelers have already been there before. The
more far-flung places that we do book quite a bit of include Thailand and South America, particularly Peru, Argentina and Brazil.
TW: Has the legalization of same-sex marriage in eight
U.S. states affected your business?
Klein: I book pretty much no gay weddings. I have booked
a couple of trips that clients are calling honeymoons, but
where they go has nothing to do with whether the place
they’re going allows gay marriage. People here in California are not going to be flying off to New York to get married. I’ve seen absolutely no bump in business from marriage laws or repeal of “Don’t ask don’t tell.”
white people would be unheard of today,” Roth said. “There
are diversity departments to make sure that never hap-
pens.” But most companies, he added, are not making sure
that LGBT people are not excluded. It’s still a really rare
but exciting emerging communications development for
the LGBT community. Gay people do bring [these com-
mercials] up, that they make such a difference.”
But what does “mainstreaming” portend for all-LGBT
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