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Community Marketing, Inc. Releases 14th Annual Gay & Lesbian Tourism Study

(SAN FRANCISCO) Community Marketing, Inc. (CMI), the San Francisco-based LGBT market research and communications firm, has released its annual rankings of the destinations most visited by the gay and lesbian community. The rankings remain remarkably consistent from past years.

Rounding out the top five domestic destinations were New York City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The survey also asked which hotel brand and airline have done the best job outreaching to the gay and lesbian community. W Hotels and Kimpton Hotels tied as the top hotel brands, and American Airlines was by far the top airline.

In addition to identifying top travel destinations for LGBT travelers, the survey also indicates growth opportunities for destinations and hotels to market themselves regionally for “staycations.” The survey found tremendous growth in regional vacations over the past 12 months, but the growth was most pronounced to destinations that were drives of two to six hours away from home. The study also found small increases for vacations within the travelers’ own cities.

When asked to specify how many regional drive vacations (including at least one night in a hotel) were taken, 65% took a longer regional drive vacation of more than two hours, with 42% took a regional drive vacation where the drive was two hours or less, and 14% took a trip where they stayed in a hotel in their own city. This trend should benefit resort destinations like Palm Springs that are close (but not too close) to major metropolitan populations, and major cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC, which are all close to each other, trading stays among LGBT residents. “Gay and lesbian staycations ought to be a focus for tourism offices and hotels looking to make up for decreased long-distance arrivals,” said Thomas Roth, president of Community Marketing.

With regard to restaurants, the study found increased interest by LGBT tourists to seek out independent neighborhood restaurants as a preference over upscale and chain restaurants. 78% indicated they visited neighborhood restaurants while traveling, while 29% indicated they visited high-end establishments.

Overall, LGBT leisure travel was only slightly down over the past 12 months, but held reasonably steady despite the recession. “Less affected by economic downturns than their mainstream counterparts because the majority are dual-income-no-kids consumers, LGBT leisure travelers remain a important niche market for tourism and hospitality,” Roth said. However, business travel among gay men and lesbians saw substantive decreases, mirroring trends in the mainstream business travel market.

CMI has been reporting these rankings for over a decade using a consistent format and study group of gay and lesbian travelers. Over 7,000 LGBT consumers took CMI's Gay & Lesbian Tourism Survey in 2009. Participants were geographically balanced, closely matching census data.