Illinois businesses looking to tap into the robust LGBT travel market need to look beyond the affluent "Dual-Income, No Kids" ( DINK ) stereotype, according to panelists at a Feb. 27 presentation.
The forumThe Importance of the Evolving LGBT Segmentwas part of the Illinois Governor's Conference on Travel & Tourism, which took place at the Palmer House Hilton. Participants included Legacy Project Executive Director Victor Salvo, Northalsted Business Alliance Executive Director Chad Honeycutt and Windy City Times Publisher Tracy Baim. The panel was moderated by travel author Ed Salvato.
Salvato noted that LGBT travelers travel with more frequency and spontaneity, and are less likely to cut back on travel during recessions, catastrophe or times of heightened terrorism awareness. They are also especially loyal customers, and frequently reward businesses who make a genuine and thoughtful outreach to the LGBT community.
"If a marketer says, 'We want you here,' that's very powerful for the LGBTQ community," Salvato said.
But panelists agreed that the travel industry needs to see beyond chasing dollars of affluent gay men and seek out more diverse corners of the community, among them same-sex parents, families of LGBT children or transgender travelers. Salvo called same-gender parents "a wildly untapped market," for example.
Baim said that families with transgender children similarly would appreciate engagement from the travel industry, adding, "Their parents don't have many safe places they can take their kids."
She added that transgender travelers might appreciate even small-scale gestures such as making single-stall restroom facilities gender-neutral.
Since Illinois' weather and geography precludes the same nightlife and recreation possibilities as the coasts, the state's travel industry leaders and business owners have to identify their areas' strengths to LGBT travelers. That advice, according to panelists, is best acquired from local LGBT residents. Honeycutt also spoke about the importance of "inclusive marketing" tactics, such as using a diverse spectrum of models in advertisements.
"The market is already all over Illinois," said Salvato. "They just don't necessarily have things to draw them out."