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Can gay tourists be defined as their own market segment?

Can gay tourists be defined as their own market segment?
Author: Henrietta Helin
2 Commentries

Tourism companies have focused on marketing to heterosexuals and lately an interest to-wards gay marketing has grown. This paper is to discuss whether gay tourists can be classi-fied as their own market segment even though they are not a homogenous group.

Key words: Gay tourism, lesbian tourism, market segmentation

There are many factors which influence travel. Age and income are considered to signifi-cantly influence one's travel behaviour. Income, household size, education and the size of the city of origin also affect the decision to go on a holiday. (Kattiyapornpong & Miller, 2009) There are lot of different tourism niches which vary depending on one's interests. Niches can be for example cultural tourism, sports tourism, rural tourism or adventure tourism. (González & Bello, 2002) Common travel motivations people tend to have include visiting friends and relatives, viewing surroundings and scenery, experiencing different counties and cultures, participating in different activities, escaping from routine and resting and relaxing. (Boo & Jones, 2009)

Gay men's reasons to go on a holiday are similar to non-gays and the destinations are cho-sen for a variety of reasons (Hughes, 2002). Gay men seem to seek destinations that meet the usual requirements of a holiday but which also offer gay space (Hughes, 2003). The most popular motivations amongst gays for going on a holiday are relaxation, comfort, good food and sunshine (Hughes, 2002). Sexual identity is a key motivator for some gay men in taking holidays (Casey, 2009). It has been concluded that risk of unpleasant reactions and the need to change behaviour were significant issues in destination avoidance. There seems to be a clear desire to avoid places that are homophobic, but only few respondents wish to go on a 'gay-specific' holiday. (Hughes, 2003) The influence of sexuality is seen more clearly in the rejection of countries which are seen unsuitable (Hughes, 2002).

The emerging work on women and tourism suggests strongly that women and men experi-ence tourism differently (Hughes, 2006). Leisure researchers have established the impor-tance of gender as a shaper of leisure experiences (Pritchard, et al., 2002). There are differ-ences in the holiday profile of lesbians and gay men. Lesbians are more likely to seek holi-days that are less focused on the commercial gay scene and the most popular gay men's destinations are not that popular within lesbians. Lesbians are also less likely to have a passport and tend spend less on their holidays than gay men. Lesbians are more likely than gay men to look for a relaxing holiday and less likely to travel somewhere they have been before. (Hughes, 2006) These findings makes it hard to segment all gay tourists into a one segment group as gay men and lesbians are different to each other.

The holiday marketing is strongly heterosexualised (Casey, 2009). There seems to be a need for another type of marketing and some companies have started to target the gay and lesbian (Tuten, 2005). Understanding travellers push factors can be significant in identifying travel market segments because after understanding them, there are more opportunities to tailor the services to meet travellers' unique needs and preferences (Boo & Jones, 2009). Many gay tourists travel in search of a safe destination, thus being gay-friendly location acts as a significant factor in travel planning (Ryan & Hall, 2001). This evidence supports the idea of segmenting the gay community as their own market segment, however, segment marketing gays might not embrace the range of experiences gay tourists may seek from a holiday (Casey, 2009).

Gay tourism is often niched as its own group but it needs to be remembered that the gay community is not homogenous (Casey, 2009). When defining a market segment by its sexu-ality, one must remember that it consists of a variety of age, income, occupation, social class, race, family, attitudes and interests, which all have more influence on purchasing patterns than sexuality (Hughes, 2006). Even though gays share a same form of sexuality, they have different interests, income levels and there certainly are differences between lesbians and gay men; thus they cannot be classified as a homogenous group. If a market segment is not a homogenous group, it is hard to start developing specific services for them. However, tour-ism advertising is heterosexualised which might put off gay tourists which is why gay tourists should be segmented as their own market segment and provide them services that they are interested in.


Casey, M. E., 2009. Tourist gay(ze) or transnational sex: Australian gay men's holiday
desires. Leisure studies, 28 (2), pp. 157-172.

Hughes, H., 2002. Gay Men's Holiday Destination Choice: A Case of Risk and Avoidance.
International Journal of Tourism Research, 4 (4), pp. 299-312.

Hughes, H., 2003. Marketing gay tourism in Manchester: New market for urban tourism or
destruction of 'gay space'? Journal of Vacation Marketing, 9 (2), pp. 152-163.
Gay Market....
Author: Jenna Arkinstall
I have chosen this paper due to similarities in study, such as the identification of gay space, and the niche market as a whole. It has been noted that this paper stresses the fact that gay individuals require 'gay space', meaning they want holidays based around the 'gay scene'. It is also made clear that there are differences between gay men's travel and gay women's travel, with gay women wanting less of a gay scene when on holiday, and gay men wanting a gay scene. It must be mentioned that this is not always the case. A study by Pink News (2007) which was based on gay men holidaying discovered that 82 percent of gay individuals do not want the gay scene whilst on holiday. This is also backed up by Go With The Breeze (2009), who mentions that an individual may not want to go to an area that is specialised in gay space as they may want a "break" from the gay scene, especially if the individual spends a large amount of time within the gay scene.

It is felt that maybe the area of gay friendly holidays could have been concentrated on a bit more, especially when 70 percent of individuals questioned within a study did not have an interest in whether accommodation was run by gay individuals, as long as they are welcoming, Diva (2010).

Overall, this paper shows understanding between the differences within gay and lesbian travel; however it is felt that this should be researched more. It is felt that in the main paper this area may be in more depth and may explain more differences within the types of gay travel. It is thought that indicating that many companies are now starting to target the gay market was a strong move, as it is agreed that there are a large amount of companies that are currently, or looking into, targeting this niche market. I like the way knowing the 'push factors' of the target market is identified, and it is agreed that this will help provide the gay tourist with a 'safe' location.

I found this article very interesting to read, and discovered a few facts that I have previously not thought about, such as the 'push factors'. It would be interesting to see several of the areas in more depth. I did find, however the sentence "…tourism advertising is heterosexualised which might put off gay tourists which is why gay tourists should be segmented as their own market segment and provide them services that they are interested in." can be argued against, due to reasons mentioned previously within this commentary, such as a large percent of gay individuals wanting to escape the gay scene.


Go With The Breeze (2009) Gay Tourism Is On The Rise (and Profitably). [online]. [accessed on: 22nd April 2010]. Available via: <www.gowiththebreeze.com>.

Pink News (2010) First Gay Boutique Hotel to be Opened in New York. [online]. [accessed on: 21st April 2010] Available at: <www.pinknews.co.uk>.

Diva (2010) Shrinking Horizons- Is The Gay Holiday Industry Doomed? [online]. [accessed on: 21st April 2010] Available at: <http://www.divamag.co.uk/>.
Reaching out to the gay tourist: opportunities and threats in an emerging market segment
Author: Buhle Ndebele
I have chosen your paper because it explores the motivations for the gay men to undertake their holidays, in particular the pursuit and experience of sex and the intersecting of travel, sex and social class in reinforcing binaries of exclusion within gay male travel. It is suggested within the paper that sexual identity is a key motivator for some gay men in taking holidays. However, social class and socio-economic income are found to be crucial in facilitating or denying the inclusion of gay men from the tourist experience. In turn, the paper finds that homogeneous images of gay men as rich and highly mobile are problematic and false, and exclude many low-income gay men who are unable to travel overseas.

A consideration of lesbian leisure activity may also contribute to a further understanding of lesbian holidays. Gay space (usually a leisure sphere of bars, clubs and restaurants) appears to be particularly important for gay men and lesbians for many reasons including validation of identity. It does though have less significance for women. Lesbians, in a UK survey by Mintel (2000), were noticeably less frequent users of bars and clubs than were gay men, 44 per cent of women compared with 56 per cent of men visited bars 'very frequently' or 'frequently'; with respect to clubs, the figures were 23 and 38 per cent respectively. Much gay space tends to be male dominated at least in outward signs such as bars and clubs, which for lesbians are uncommon. This may be explained not only by women (heterosexual and homosexual) perceiving public space as being unsafe (Scraton and Watson, 1998) but also by a greater tendency to develop private social networks and family for leisure and for nurturing identity (Peake, 1993; Elwood, 2000). In addition, lesbian identity is less focused on sexual activity or consumption in the way that gay men's is (Bouthillette, 1997). The lack of commercial representation of lesbianism may also be partly explained by feminism's anti-capitalist and consumerist elements (Forsyth, 2001). It may be too that women have lower discretionary incomes than men or are not as interested in territorial presence as men (Valentine, 1995).

Bouthillette, A. and Retter, Y. (eds), 'Queers in Space: Communities, public places, sites of resistance', Bay Press, Seattle, pp. 213-232.
Bell, D. and Valentine, G. (1995) 'Introduction: Orientations', in Bell, D. and Valentine, G. (eds), 'Mapping Desire: Geographies of sexualities', Routledge, London, pp. 1-27.
Scraton, S. and Watson, B. (1998) 'Gendered Cities: Women and public leisure space in the postmodern city', Leisure Studies, 17, 2, 123-137.