Book review:
Handbook of LGBT Tourism & Hospitality, by Jeff Guaracino and Ed Salvato

If you work in the travel industry, you’re always thinking about how best to appeal to your target market, to present yourself to the fickle traveller, and to convince people to book with you and not your competitors.

Targeting the LGBT travel market isn’t a new thing, but I’m impressed by the handbook that has been compiled by Jeff Guaracino and Ed Salvato (Handbook of LGBT Tourism and Hospitality, published by Harrington Park Press). Not only do they pull together the available research and insights regarding the potential of the LGBT travel market, there’s also lots of practical tips and case studies on how travel professionals and businesses and best engage with this high-value segment.

Guaracino and Salvato’s research reports that the first travel guide written specifically for gay men (The Gay Guide/Le Guide Gris) was published in 1958. When I first started travelling, it was the Spartacus guide that was every gay man’s travel bible. These days there are a huge range of online resources, sometimes there’s so much information it can be difficult to know who to trust and it all becomes a little overwhelming.

Of course, not every destination or travel operator is going to be interested in appealing to travellers who identify somewhere within the LGBT umbrella – for starters, there’s about 74 countries where being gay is illegal. But whatever your personal views, it makes total business sense to try and present yourself as a travel option that welcomes LGBT travellers. Guaracino and Salvato report that:

  • LGBT Capital estimates that the global LGBT population is around 450 million, and that the global spending power of this segment is USD$3.7 trillion per annum; and
  • Community Marketing & Insights estimate that LGBT people in the US travel twice as much as the average American.

The summary of the changing landscape of LGBT media presented by Guaracino and Salvato is informed and useful — the changes that they’re articulating tie in closely with the rise in mobile devices and the changing way in which consumers access and share information. No one really has any answers on how the media landscape will further evolve in the coming years, but we can be confident that LGBT consumers will be at the forefront of technological and social change, so testing innovative and forward thinking campaigns with the LGBT segment is a smart move.

Guaracino and Salvato’s guide on how you tackle marketing to this segment is practical and comprehensive. The reality is that there is no silver-bullet big-idea, getting this right takes time, work, investment, trial and error, and a fair bit of luck. The soundness of their core advice though is undeniable — if you’re going to do this then get started. Test and trial and learn as you go, but if you want to appeal to LGBT travellers, then find a way to get started on that journey.

Reviewed by Gareth Johnson