Janet Silvera, Hospitality Jamaica Coordinator
Tourism spend by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) will exceed US$200 billion for the first time in 2014.
Statistics released at the just-concluded World Travel Market by Out Now Business Class (ONBC), the world's leading LGBT tourism trade association, said the United States (US) leads the market, followed by Brazil.
US LGBT travellers spent US$56.5 billion and Brazil US$25.3 billion, says Out Now.
The news comes as the organisation announced a major partnership with the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) and GALTA (Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia).
It also comes at a time when Jamaica has come under more pressure from the LGBT community and travel guide books and websites such as Tripadvisor.com, where persons have advised gays and lesbians from visiting the country.
An advisory in the popular Frommers Guide which describes Jamaica as the most homophobic island in the Caribbean, with harsh anti-gay laws, even though there's a large local gay population.
"Many all-inclusive resorts allow same-sex couples, but if you're desiring a gay trip to get some sun, forget Jamaica unless you want to stay deep in the closet," stated Frommers, advising readers to opt for places such as Puerto Rico, notably Old San Juan, which is a friendlier destination.
"Or South Beach (part of Miami Beach) or Key West, but definitely not Jamaica where intolerance of gays is most pronounced. Local gay activists have been killed or had their homes set on fire," said the guide book.
A number of visitors to the renowned Tripadvisor website also cautioned those who may opt for Jamaica, stating that just because the resorts say they are gay friendly doesn't mean all the employees are tolerant.
One person's perspective from their trip read like this, "Our only down side to the resort was that we seemed to have been the only lesbians to have ever graced the resort. We were asked at least 1,000 times if we were sisters, or friends or something, and they were in disbelief when we said we were married. We were asked if they could join, and nonsense like that, but for the most part the staff was very friendly. Again, just not for a lesbian honeymoon. Not that we are looking to be all gay all the time, but just to not be on the spot all the time."
In the meantime, ONBC and ETOA jointly released a new LGBT2020 Report on European Tourism showing the total value of spending on travel by LGBT Europeans will next year account for US$66.1 billion of total tourism spending.
The CEO of Out Now Global, Ian Johnson also said the results presented at WTM had much to keep the industry thinking on about how to best understand and meet the needs of the global LGBT travel market. "It is great that the value of LGBT tourism spending now exceeds USD$202 billion but there are still many challenges the industry needs to address," Johnson said.
"Staff training is essential to help get staff up to speed with what has become an unstoppable LGBT consumer revolution for the travel industry. We are obviously pleased that all ONBC members now receive unlimited online staff training to help deliver better understanding and customer service to LGBT guests."
Johnson also pointed out that the acronym LGBT may soon be replaced by the more inclusive LGBTI - recognising an increasing awareness of intersex issues in society. "Intersex people are becoming more visible and their unique issues are slowly becoming better understood," Johnson said.
"In a number of markets in which Out Now works the acronym LGBT, it is now routinely being superseded by LGBTI and the global tourism industry definitely needs more education on what being intersex means."
Intersex is the condition of being intermediate between male and female or hermaphroditism.