Gay travel tourism continues to grow. Despite the economic downturn of the last two years which affected everyone, destinations, hotels, transportation companies, events, and others continue to market to gay and lesbian travelers in search of “pink dollars.” It’s not surprising perhaps that Provincetown and Key West continue to woo gay travelers, but the list of destinations reaching out to us now includes Bloomington, Ind., Curacao, and Belgium among many others.
Part of the reason for this is that marketers have noticed — and surveys have substantiated — that gay travelers:
- Have more disposable time and money to spend traveling;
- Spend more money per person per vacation than their heterosexual counterparts;
- Travel more frequently and for longer periods of time;
- Are willing to travel for an event (often Pride); and
- Are incredibly loyal to companies and organizations that market to them (in an authentic manner).
During the last great economic downturn (after 9/11), LGBT travel picked up very quickly. Recent surveys show the same phenomenon occuring now. We’re a small market but we are important.
To illustrate, Antwerp began to court the LGBTmarket in the last few years. A couple of year’s ago the city hosted a familiarization tour with the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. This past week, they hosted the IGLTA’s annual conference. In conjuction, they invited 50 LGBTjournalists from Europe and the U.S. (including yours truly) to show the world their gay-friendly destination. Antwerp, indeed Belgium, is typcially not on the top of gay Americans must-visit list. That’s too bad.
This country, with its Dutch-speaking, Germanic yet Catholic Flemish region and its French-parlant section Wallonia, offer all sorts of attractions, from the culinary (yummy beer and chocolate, waffles, delicious seafood) to the cultural and historical, and gay and lesbians are equal to their straight countryman in the eyes of the law. Gay marriage is the law of the land.
Plan a trip to Antwerp next year for Pride or August 3-11, 2013 for the Antwerp 3rd World Out Games. Stay at this fab hotel I checked out called Leopold Hotel. It’s comfortable, clean, very boutique-y and within walking distance to everything. It offers free WiFi, and it’s also across from a lovey park that’s kind of cruisy at night.