And as more and more countries are legalising the marriage of same-sex couples worldwide, these figures are only set to increase in the coming years.
It is a great market for hoteliers to break in to: due to their DINK status (dual income, no kids), lesbian and gay guests tend to have more disposable income to spend on holidays.
In fact, recent figures suggest that gay Europeans spend close to €50bn on travel each year.
So what’s the best way to attract more potential customers from the LGBT community?
It takes a lot more than simply ‘rainbow washing’ (adding a rainbow flag to your marketing campaigns).
You need to be able to fully understand your audience, incorporate them into the story you tell, and reflect that story in both your hotel website and hotel operations.
How to incorporate LGBT guests in your hotel marketing strategy
1.) Know your audience to tell your story
There seems to be a common misconception about the LGBT travel market: because it’s often used as an ‘umbrella term’, people tend to think that it makes up one united community, all with the same needs and goals.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, as the LGBT market is just as segmented as any other market.
LGBT travellers could be either in or out of the closet. They could be travelling solo, in couples or with children.
Their travel experience could be shaped by their culture, gender, age and religion, as well as the laws on homosexuality back in their home country.
What’s more, the L, B and T are just as important as the gay male market so don’t forget them!
Honeymoons among lesbians, for example, are on the rise, so be sure to include everyone in your strategy.
As you can see, LGBT marketing requires you to fully understand your audience first.
The next step is to then incorporate them into your brand story by aligning your values with those of the LGBT community.
LGBT consumers prefer gay-friendly hotels, so start out by building up an LGBT friendly reputation.
And there’s no better place to start than with how you treat your own LGBT employees.
Embrace diversity in your policies, broadcast your support of LGBT causes and train all staff how to treat one another in a respective and kind manner (more on that later).
Including gay staff in your marketing strategy is crucial as well, because you’ll have a higher chance of seeing marketing success.
By bringing people together and making teams as diverse as possible, you’ll end up with much more creative ideas.
Furthermore, make sure you stay on top of gay travel trends and the latest happenings in the LGBT community.
2.) It’s all about relationship marketing
As any hotelier will be able to tell you, retaining existing customers is much more cost-effective than finding completely new ones.
Once you have your hotel’s brand story, utilise relationship marketing to keep current guests happy and coming back for more.
Nurture your current LGBT customers through thoughtful email marketing (if you have their permission of course), and offer them a personalised ‘extra’ for their next return.
For example, if it’s an LGBT couple, invite them to a romantic meal or offer spa vouchers for two.
LGBT travellers tend to seek travel experiences that understand their history, culture and community.
So another great way to build up a relationship with the community is to include regular blog articles in your digital marketing strategy on content that could interest an LGBT traveller.
Not only will you show potential guests that your interests align with theirs, but it’s also a great way for search engines to pick up your hotel website when your target audience searches for their next hotel.
In addition to your blog, make sure that imagery on your website and social media represent LGBT travellers as well as other guests.
This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to plaster your homepage with photos of gay couples though. A photo of a single man can work just as well, for example.
Some hotels may want to create a separate page on their website to specifically target this niche audience, and that works well too.
For more information, have a read of how to target LGBT travellers through your hotel brand identity.
3.) Train your staff and avoid making assumptions
It’s one thing to show your LGBT friendliness online, but it’s another thing to prove it during a guest’s stay.
A whopping 83% of gay men and women choose their hotel based on its gay-friendly reputation, so positive on-site experiences go a long way.
Train all customer-facing staff to avoid any misunderstandings or any situations that could be perceived as discriminatory.
Hotelier Academy has some great case studies of situations that could occur, so we encourage you to have a read through them.
Remember that people travel with all kinds of companions, so unless you know who the second guest is, we advise hotels to not make assumptions and just address all communications to the primary guest.
Furthermore, it’s a well-known fact that there is safety in numbers. It’s thus not uncommon for a group of LGBT guests to travel together.
But regardless of whether they travel alone or in groups, creating a safe space for all your guests should be your top priority.
When you’re on holiday, the last thing you want to worry about is how you’ll be perceived, so making everyone feel as comfortable as possible is key.
Have a read of how to achieve a competitive advantage in the LGBT travel market to find out more.
How to stand out as an LGBT friendly hotel in the competitive travel industry
The hospitality industry is competitive, and as more hotels get added year on year, having a good differentiation strategy to set yourself apart is crucial.
And what better way to stand out than by targeting a niche LGBT audience?
At World Rainbow Hotels, we’re experts at marketing hotels to an ever-growing community of LGBT travellers.
We bring together a global community of gay and lesbian welcoming hotels, providing accommodations like yours unprecedented visibility and access to the LGBT market.