The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) leisure travel market is set to reach a record US$181 billion in 2013, says a report from the recently concluded World Travel Market (WTM) in London, England.
The findings are based on the LGBT2020 research programme from leading global LGBT marketing specialist Out Now Global -http://www.outnowconsulting.com - which measures consumer spend, purchasing habits and brand preferences across 22 countries.
The new data shows a 9.7 per cent year on year growth in the LGBT travel market, up from US$165 billion in 2012. The findings come at a time when a few Jamaican resorts have become more accepting of same-sex couples.
The country is also labelled an 'adamantly homophobic nation', but research shows that there are a number of LGBT-friendly resorts in Negril, Port Antonio, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and the south coast, which have been getting complimentary reviews from same-sex couples, jetting in and out of the island.
"Our hotels have always welcomed. We don't necessarily place ads advertising that we accept the LGBT, but we would never turn back persons because of their sexual preferences," said a Negril hotelier, who added that there is really no difference from how the LGBT market was treated by the average hotel 20 years ago.
"The industry has always been more tolerant than the rest of the society," said the hotelier, adding that there are many gays working in the tourism sector, so it's no big news.
Another hotelier says Jamaica is not ready for this market, which is a big mistake. "I have tried to target them in the past, but I have given up, because it's a hard sell, particularly because of our homophobic reputation," said the hotelier.
She said if members of the LGBT community were to turn up at her property they wouldn't be turned back. She admits that the market has huge potential of pumping foreign exchange into the island's coffers.
In the meantime, the Out Now reports list the USA market at the top of the league at US$52.3 billion, followed by Brazil (US$22.9 billion) and Japan (US$18.5 billion). Europe, it says, is a more important LGBT market than the USA with the total value of the eight most important markets in Europe being significantly larger than the US market (US$58.3 billion) and Latin America's most important three markets account for an additional US$36.0 billion).
Announcing the figures at WTM, Out Now Global CEO Ian Johnson said: "A number of different factors continue to drive growth in this sector. Many LGBT people have grown up experiencing things a bit tougher than most, so a difficult economy, and working to keep things moving in tough times, including our travel plans, is part of the modus operandi for many of us."
Johnson is quoted as stating that like many people, LGBT consumers are finding the cost of living tough and some are working two or more jobs to keep things together, but with dramatically fewer households with children, travel remains a viable option for more LGBT travellers and one that is still within their household budget.
For the first time this year, Turkey and Israel were added to the LGBT 2020 survey, says Out for the first time this year. The new Turkey research data shows that this new market accounts for more than US$5.1 billion in annual tourism spending. Israel adds another US$1.1 billion to the annual value of LGBT tourism spending globally.
"Having identified a remarkably resilient potential customer base for 2013, now is the time for industry operators to really step up a gear and work to strengthen their market position," says Johnson.
To facilitate this process, he says, in a cost effective and genuine way, Out Now has developed a suite of new services to help the industry make that important change.