Gay tourism or LGBT tourism is a form of niche tourism marketed to gay people who are open about their sexual orientation and who wish to travel to gay travel destinations in order to participate to some extent in the gay life of the destination area. Such a trip is known as a gaycation. As an industry it has some substantial maturity, and includes such specialists as travel agents, tour companies, cruise lines and travel advertising and promotions companies who market these destinations to the gay community.
Major companies in the travel industry have become aware of the substantial money (also known as the "pink dollar" or "pink pound") generated by this marketing niche, and have made it a point to align themselves with the gay community and gay tourism campaigns. According to Tourism Intelligence International (2000), some 10% of international tourists were gay or lesbians, accounting for more than 70 million arrivals worldwide. This important market segment is expected to continue to grow as a result of a change in world-wide attitudes to homosexuality. The gay and lesbian segment is estimated as a $55 billion annual market.
Outside those companies, practitioners of LGBT tourism are being offered other tools, such as LGBT hospitality networks, i.e. networks of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals or transgendered individuals who offer each other the gift of short term hospitality during their travels. Also available are gay expatriates clubs, which also function to give information and resources to practitioners traveling in their cities.
Gay travel destinations
Gay travel destinations are popular among practitioners of gay tourism because they usually have permissive or liberal attitudes towards gays, feature a prominent gay infrastructure (bars, businesses, restaurants, hotels, nightlife, entertainment, media, organizations, etc.), the opportunity to socialize with other gays, and the feeling that one can relax safely among other gay people.
Gay travel destinations are often large cities, although not exclusively, and often coincide with the existence of gay neighborhoods. These municipalities and their tourism bureaus often work actively to develop their reputations as places for gays to travel to, commonly by aligning themselves to local gay organizations. Travel analysts state that the existence of a core gay friendly population is often the primary catalyst for the development of a gay-friendly tourist destination.
Gay tourism might also coincide with special gay events such as annual gay pride parades, gay neighborhood festivals and such gay community gatherings as gay chorus festivals and concerts, gay square dance conventions, gay sports meets such as Gay Games, World Outgames or Eurogames and conferences of national and international gay organisations. Gay tourism blossoms during these peak periods.
The US market is regarded as being the most important source of LGBT tourism practitioners, followed by the European market as the next most important.
Gay tourism practitioners spend $64 billion a year on gay travel, according to Community Marketing Inc. The adult GLBT community has a total economic spending power of more than $600 billion per year, according to Wietck Combs. Philadelphia and Community Marketing found that for every one dollar invested in gay tourism marketing, $153 was returned in direct economic spending in shops, hotels, restaurants and attractions. Since 2002, there has been a historic rise in gay tourism marketing. Destinations such as Philadelphia, Dallas and Ft. Lauderdale have engaged in gay tourism campaigns.
The gay cruise industry is experiencing a significant growth period. Community Marketing Inc. found in research studies that gay business travelers are 30% more likely to convert to a leisure visitor.
Philadelphia was the first destination in the world to create and air a television commercial specifically geared towards practitioners of gay tourism. Philadelphia was also the first destination to commission a research study aimed at a specific destination to learn about gay travel to a specific city.
Work is underway in conjunction with Israel's Ministry of Tourism to turn Tel Aviv into the international tourist destination for the gay-lesbian community in order to boost business in restaurants, hotels, city attraction sites and beaches. In an effort to boost gay tourism in Tel Aviv, the Gay and Lesbian Union has bid to host in Tel Aviv the 2009 Euro Pride, the largest annual gay parade in the world.
Resources by LGBT expatriates groups abroad
Social groups for resident and visiting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender expatriates and friends exist all over the world. They usually are a very good resource for practitioners of LGBT tourism and can for instance provide lists of LGBT meeting places or even invite tourists who happen to be in the city to various events.
Such groups usually meet on one particular day and can help practitioners to have more information about the region, or simply give them the occasion to meet LGBT expatriates - sometimes of their own country - in a relaxed atmosphere.
LGBT and Queer studies