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Gays more likely business travelers

They seek a welcoming, tolerant environment from hotels
/ Source: Reuters

Gays are discerning business travelers who tend to take more work-related trips than their non-gay counterparts, a recent online study reveals. When choosing a hotel, they list cost, location and fair treatment as the most important factors, according to a consumer research study conducted this summer by Witeck-Combs Communications and Harris Interactive.

“These findings are not surprising,” says Wesley Combs, president of Witeck-Combs, which consults with major U.S. corporations marketing to GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) consumers.

“Because only 20 percent of GLB households have children, it may be that GLB employees have fewer conflicts when it comes to business travel. Given this assumption, they may more readily volunteer, or might possibly be asked to take more business trips,” Combs says.

John Madden, a Florida-based bank officer whose work takes him to Latin America and the Caribbean about once a month, said gay business travelers basically fit into two main categories — individuals who work for corporate America and those who are self-employed or in creative, less mainstream occupations.

Their job category also may dictate their choice of lodgings, where the cutting-edge minimalist touch generally holds more appeal for gay travelers.

“I work in a traditional corporate setting and have no choice,” Madden said. “My corporate travel agency books accommodations. If I had my own business, I may decide to stay at a guesthouse or other establishment.

“But, while I do work for a traditional company, I am not working 24 hours a day,” he said. “I might want to go out after work and see what the nightlife is like.”


That is where it’s important to do some research on your destination and be aware of different laws, Madden said.

“If you’re checking out the nightlife, you need to make sure that type of lifestyle is accepted within the country. For instance, don’t go to Paraguay expecting to have a major party. In Rio, it’s very different and very open,” he said.

“Depending on where you travel in Europe, Latin America or the United States, gay bookstores sell guidebooks on what to do, where not to go, and names of hotels and restaurants.”

Big cities tend to be more tolerant. They recognize that supporting the gay community, a segment that nationwide spends more than $54 billion a year on travel, is a smart economic move. Within that community is also a powerful network for executives.

“When it comes to corporate America, everyone has gotten more gay friendly,” said J. Travis, media director for the Kimberly, a boutique hotel in midtown Manhattan.

“Gay corporate America appreciates individuality and is looking for a unique experience, which is understood, especially in a city like New York,” he said. “When you are away on business you appreciate that even more.”

“One of the things that appeals about the Kimberly is that it is a higher-end product, but with a value. We are an all-suite hotel so guests have an office and a place to entertain with a full kitchen so they are not limited to restaurants if they are on a budget,” Travis said.


Andrea Sertoli, president of Select Italy ( — a custom-travel company with offices in Chicago, Rome and Florence — said their findings reveal that “the minimalist touch tends to be more appealing to the gay traveling community, whereas other travelers may be more inclined to stay in classic or Baroque-style hotels.”

InsertArt(1990386)“The whole topic is elusive — from the perspective of designers to the general appeal to gay aesthetic sensibilities,” said Neil Goodman, research and production manager at Select Italy, who spent several years in Rome.

“(Gays) find the so-called boutique hotels particularly welcome. These hotels are popping up all over the place, each more stylish than the next — all cutting edge, with very sophisticated, very modern design.

“Our clientele is mixed — gay/straight, business/leisure, but we are looking forward to offering our first gay-oriented tours of Italy for the spring of 2004,” Goodman said.

In London, the gay scene is as diverse and progressive as its gay population, according to Chris Lynn, New York-based sales and marketing director representing business and conventions for Visit London in the North American market.

“Marketing for people traveling to London in some respects is quite generic. Whether leisure or business, we find that many are maximizing their time by combining the two,” he said.

In an effort to “support decision making” for gay visitors, The London Tourist Board launched the 100-page Gay & Lesbian London Guide, ( with tips on dining out, insider shopping, spas, gyms, clubs and more.

This fall, Philadelphia is launching a marketing campaign for gay and lesbian travelers (

In today’s competitive market, the Witeck-Combs survey said, “It is increasingly important for hotels to create a welcoming and respectful environment for all guests, including GLB customers.”