Repeat Traveller

Marketing to gay travellers – is it really that difficult?

As a young gay man I’ve always been intrigued by the way hotels and tourism boards look to appeal to the gay market. If I had a cent for every time I saw glitter, rainbows, glittering rainbows, and images of shirtless men reclining over deck chairs I’d have almost enough to buy a coffee in the Burj Al Arab.

This kind of glitter bomb marketing has been around for decades, and I admit I have been guilty of being part of it in the past. I was once that young man sprawled across a deck chair (I was young and I needed the money) but as I’ve grown, I’ve moved on.

Now that I have a few laps around the sun under my belt, I actually find it pretty hilarious that people are still using this marketing approach for LGBT travellers. Sure, it may superficially get our attention, but most of the gay travellers I know aren’t just looking to rip off their shirts and dance the night away under a mirror ball. We want more from our travels.

Every person is different – we’re unique. We all seek out different experiences from our travels, but on the surface it seems many marketers don’t yet realise this or know how to handle that. Where gay travellers are similar, and I’m generalising here, is that many tend to be more internet savvy, stay in nicer places, and have more disposable income.

A convenient location, good quality room, and plenty of nearby attractions are what I usually seek out first. Aside from these points, I want to know I can be myself without looking over my shoulder. I want to know I can walk out of my hotel, visit a market, explore a temple, and then stop of at a cafe without someone being offended by the sight of two men travelling together.

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As a gay man I’m well aware that I need to be extra careful about the destinations my partner and I choose to visit, and also how to behave once we arrive. It’s part of our pre-travel routine to read up on the local laws and customs, and even then we still add a degree of caution on top. More than just how to act in public, we need to know small things such as whether to ask for a king size or to just go with it when people ask if we’re brothers.

I can only speak for myself, but what I’d like to see in ‘pink marketing’ is for advertisers to focus less on the sexuality and more on the experience – just do what you know. Don’t give me a guidebook that could pass for soft porn. Give me a map detailing interesting places to see nearby, genuine tips from a local, and some useful insight into how locals may react to gay travellers.

By all means put images of gay men and women in your brochure, but having them clothed will be more appealing to a wider cross-section of the market. Travellers come in all shapes and sizes, and if advertisers haven’t yet realised this, it might be time to seek advice from those in the know.

What do you think of pink advertising?

Chris Ashton

We’re Chris Ashton and Simon Ceglinski, two Aussie travellers with a love of exploration and adventure, and the odd bit of luxury thrown in. We seek out street art, street food, and scuba diving wherever we go, and prefer the road less travelled over well-worn tourist paths.

4 comments

  • Well said. I think it’s hilarious. I would say that in many cases it comes across as demeaning, but usually I’m laughing too hard. I do love when brands take the time to create realistic gay marketing.

    • Thanks. I think it’s really refreshing when brands try something a bit different, not just falling back on stereotypes because they’re easy. I remember one image from Hunter Valley Tourism in Australia of two men walking hand in hand through a vineyard. It’s stuck in my mind because it’s so unlike other gay advertising I’ve seen – they were just regular travellers. At the end of the day that’s all we are.




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