Marketing the Rainbow

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"Do you have to be gay to sell gay travel?" This question was addressed by Tom Rothat a conference of the Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME). “The answer is an obvious "no." By becoming sensitive to a gay client's needs and preferences, by maintaining a resource library of gay travel guidebooks and maps, and by developing relationships with dependable gay travel suppliers, a retail travel agent can successfully build a loyal gay and lesbian following.


So, yes, you can be effective entering the gay and lesbian market, but only if you work within the community; and are not seen as targeting the "gay buck." The gay market cannot be won overnight. It takes a steady approach.

Participating in gay travel industry organizations such as the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and the Travel Alternatives Group (TAG) as well as gay community organizations in your own area will allow you to network with key players.


The Key to Your Success: Community Involvement Programs. Gays and lesbians depend on non-profit organizations for almost all aspects of their daily lives. Business grows through increased customer loyalty and new clients, both of which result from an effective Community Involvement Program.”


In 2008, the National Tour Association (NTA) announced a partnership with the IGLTA. The goal: cooperation on a variety of marketing, education and research opportunities.

"Tour operators are IGLTA's second-largest membership category and we want to support their business," says IGLTA Executive Director John Tanzella. "Partnering with NTA gives us an opportunity to reach out to this very important segment of the travel industry."


"NTA Believes strongly in bringing the industry together for the better of travel and tourism, as well as for increasing business for our members," says newly elected NTA Chairman and CEO Michele Michalewicz. "This new agreement will open new doors for the NTA members by connecting them with the progressive IGLTA membership and expertise."

The deal with the NTA parallels an agreement with ASTA, announced in 2005. ASTA offers a certification course on the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) market, as does The Travel Institute.2


In May 2016, IGLTA teamed up with the European Travel Commission, an association of 32 European national tourist offices with the aim of promoting Europe as a tourism destination in long-haul markets. Noticeably absent were the Benelux, France, the UK and Sweden. The collaboration aims at strengthening LGBT tourism in Europe. “When you look at the timeline of LGBT-positive legislation and marriage equality, you see the majority of destinations paving the way are European,” said John Tanzella, IGLTA President/CEO. We look forward to working more closely with the ETC in promoting LGBT-welcoming travel to the many diverse and interesting destinations throughout Europe.”3

[1] Tom Roth, The Gay & Lesbian Travel Market , Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME)

[2] Travel Agent Central, January 19, 2009

[3] E-turbonews, May 17, 2016

Travel agents ~ an introduction