The GSBA Blog

CMI’s 20th Annual LGBT Tourism Study

Key findings from Community Marketing, Inc.’s 20th Annual LGBT Tourism Study have been compiled. With over 3,000 qualified, community-representative respondents, the CMI study offers valuable insights about LGBT travelers and consumers.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the travel and tourism industry in the United States generated more than $1.5 trillion in economic output in 2014. Based on this data and CMI sample demographics, the estimated annual economic impact of LGBT travelers is over $75 billion per year in the U.S. alone.

Key Findings and Observations

Hotels: With Marriott’s “Love Travels” campaign, the company has risen to the top hotel brand recognized for their LGBT outreach efforts. Of note is that four of the top five brands had better numbers in 2015, compared to 2014. Marriott ranked number five in 2009 and has risen to number one through their considerable focus in outreach to the LGBT community.

Destinations: Based on LGBT travel to a destination and spending at least one night in a hotel, CMI’s annual LGBT travel destination rankings remain largely unchanged in 2015. New York is again the most popular LGBT destination across all categories, followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Chicago, which are tightly grouped in 2nd place. This year’s rankings did see increases for Los Angeles as well as increases in Florida travel, with Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando; all being top-10 destinations.

Seattle, as a leisure destination, ranked 12th with gay and bisexual men and 9th with lesbian and bisexual women. New York City and Los Angeles were ranked in the 1st and 2nd tiers respectively for business travel. Seattle and cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Denver, and Portland, were ranked in the 3rd tier.

Activities: LGBT-specific activities while on vacation is not diminishing among LGBT Millennials. 60% of LGBT Millennials indicated having visited a gay bar while on vacation in the past year, and 56% visited an LGBT neighborhood while on vacation. These percentages were equal to or better than Generation X and Baby Boomer LGBTs. Attending a Pride event while on vacation was especially popular among Millennials, particularly when compared to Baby Boomers.

Shared Economy: For the first time, the survey tested questions on shared economy accommodations. The report indicated that lesbians (21%) were more likely than gay men (17%) to have actually booked via a rental-by-owner or shared economy website in the past year (e.g., Airbnb). LGBTs primarily book shared economy accommodations for cheaper rates (59%) and to be in a specific neighborhood (56%). 20% of LGBTs who booked shared economy rooms in the past year did it just because they were curious.

Economic Impact: 60% of LGBT participants who spent a night in a shared economy accommodation, if unavailable would have just stayed in a hotel/motel in the area instead. However, 40% indicated that the option of a shared economy accommodation encouraged them to either stay at a destination longer or stay in a paid accommodation instead of a family/friend stay.

LGBT-Dedicated Communications: Some tourism bureaus offer specific information for LGBT travelers on their website. In the survey, 90% of LGBT participants indicated that the existence of LGBT information on tourism bureau websites makes them feel that the tourism bureau is LGBT-friendly, 86% indicated that a tourism website should offer a specific LGBT page of information and some same-sex imagery throughout the website.

LGBT Families: Among most LGBT parents, “family-friendly” is more important than “LGBT-friendly.” When asked which is more important, a child-friendly destination or an LGBT-friendly destination, 68% choose child-friendly. Similarly, 64% choose a child-friendly hotel over an LGBT-friendly hotel. This percentage has slowly increased each year. LGBT-friendly priority dropped 10% for destinations and 5% for hotels over the three-year period.

LGBT Grandparents: The survey discovered the long overlooked group, LGBT grandparents. 56% of LGBT parents with a child over age 18 have grandchildren, and 28% indicated going on a vacation with their grandchildren in the past year. Multi-generational trips is an emerging market for many destinations, and LGBT will finally be included in this discussion.