In this day and age, the influence of the LGBTQ+ community on the tourism industry is undeniable. Many of the most respected brands and venues are continuously looking for ways to become more inclusive towards a diverse range of audiences. Celebrating and acknowledging universal human rights is not only the new normal, but it’s also a vital way to convey that your organization represents all of your audiences.
Being inclusive of the queer community also has financial benefits as the purchasing power of the LGBTQ+ community – also referred to as ‘pink money’ – represents a big area of opportunity for venues and attractions. The Swedish Federation of Business Owners (Företagarna) estimates that queer consumers have a collective power of $15 billion USD ($1 billion USD in the US alone).
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (CBI), the LGBTQ community in Europe represents only 5.9% of the total population yet it holds a tourism market value of over €64 billion in just seven European countries. Unsurprisingly, the preferred destinations for these travelers are places where they can travel safely and where locals are friendly and accepting of LGBTQ people.
Paul Thomson, the founder of the Hong Kong-based consultancy LGBT Capital, says the gay community tends to spend more on travel as they don’t often have the financial limitations that arise from raising children. Nevertheless, Former CEO of Företagarna, Elisabeth Thand Ringqvist stresses the importance of making meaningful changes at all levels and recommends against only focusing on marketing strategies to attract pink money.
Here are a few tips to make your venue more inclusive for LGBTQ+ tourism.
June is Pride Month, and normally, most brands, venues, and attractions focus their LGBTQ+ campaigns in that month by showing support in the forms of limited edition products, displaying rainbow flags across their facilities, and releasing marketing materials or even hosting special promotions for the LGBTQ+ community.
However, these actions can feel a lot like empty gestures if efforts fade away as Pride Month ends. Pandering-like practices are generally frowned upon by the LGBTQ+ community who have coined the term pinkwashing to describe these temporary efforts. It’s seen as malpractice to make money out of the LGBTQ+ movement and its symbols, without actually giving back to these communities. It can result in harsh criticisms and bad press for your organization if you only make an effort to involve the LGBTQ+ community once a year.
Instead, you can spread out your public support throughout the year by partnering with organizations and community leaders that support the LGBTQ+ community all-year-round. Here are some examples of museums and attractions that celebrate pride all year round.
When doing registrations and creating databases of your customers and audiences, try to include gender-neutral or non-binary options for people that identify themselves beyond only male or female. If a form offers the options to specify between Mr., Mrs., or Ms., you can also include Mx. as a gender-neutral prefix.
You can also integrate options for pronouns such as he/him, she/her, or they/them. Some companies even integrate this internally and include their employee’s pronouns in email signatures as a way to practice inclusive actions daily.
The conventional arrangements for toilets are to divide them between men and women, and sometimes a third option exclusively for people with disabilities. However, for some people in the LGBTQ+ community such as trans womxn, trans men, or non-binary people, choosing a toilet between men or women can be a very tense if not traumatic experience.
This is why many venues and businesses have started to offer gender-neutral toilets as a way to promote safe spaces for trans, non-binary, and genderqueer inclusivity.
Aim to integrate a diverse range of people and identities in your marketing materials as well as internal and external communication. Representation is important for the LGBTQ+ community – and this also requires adding BPOC (Black and people of color) into the equation. Try to make sure everybody feels welcome regardless of sex, race, gender, age, religious background, or physical ability. Practice intersectional communication by making sure your venue features multiple voices from minority groups.
Think about how a gender-neutral marketing campaign looks like for your venue or consider a content series that actively addresses LGBTQ+ individuals. You can also partner with organizations, operators, and outlets that specialize in LGBTQ+ demographics to get better insights about this.
If your venue is a museum or a gallery that offers seasonal exhibitions, try inviting LGBTQ+ and queer BPOC curators to co-curate these exhibitions. Other options range from choosing line-ups that embrace queer artists to revisiting historical artifacts sourced from a queer perspective or cultural objects that showcase LGBTQ+ themes.
Diversifying your art offerings and integrating a plurality of rich perspectives into your collections will attract LGBTQ+ tourism to your venue.
If you’re ensuring excellent and inclusive services for your LGBTQ+ visitors, don’t hesitate to ask them for feedback and to leave a review on online platforms. Peer recommendations and reviews are a key factor for credibility and also a surefire way to make LGBTQ+ people feel safe about their destinations.
There’s no better publicity than word-of-mouth recommendations. If your venue is making strides to be inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, make sure to ask your visitors to recommend you to their friends.
Consider implementing ongoing training and measures to make sure your staff and organization members are qualified to be inclusive in their roles and interactions with colleagues and visitors/customers.
Many actions are not visible to people outside the LGBTQ+ community, and behaviors could be misinterpreted if your staff is not properly trained or briefed about inclusive communication. For instance, using the word ‘gay’ in your marketing materials could exclude other identities in the LGBTQ+ spectrum and make some people feel disregarded.
To address this, you could enroll your organization in courses conducted by institutions such as the IGLTA (the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association). This can also help you implement non-discriminative and trans-friendly policies to warrant the safety of everyone.
Finally, try not to only focus on only LGBTQ+ customers – there are many other communities you may be overlooking in your current approach. Find ways to continuously demonstrate that everybody is welcome and that you are happy to open your doors and provide safe and memorable experiences for everyone.
Instill these measures as an ongoing process, rather than a one-time goal. Inclusivity is a continuous journey to make our public spaces more welcoming for more and more people.
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