15 February 2009

A Gay Tourism Market

Reality or Illusion, Benefit or Burden?

Author: Howard L. Hughes a

Affiliation: a Tourism Management Department, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, England
DOI: 10.1300/J162v05n02_04
Publication Frequency: 4 issues per year
Published in: journal Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism, Volume 5, Issue 2 - 4 March 2005 , pages 57 - 74

There is a commonly held view that gay men, in particular, are frequent and intensive holiday-makers. This is explained by reference to distinctive characteristics relating to income and leisure time and to distinctive values and attitudes. Gay men's travel patterns are believed to be unique and such as to offer good prospects to those, such as tour operators and hoteliers, willing to target this market. The evidence for these beliefs is examined in this article. Many of the assertions are based on limited-coverage survey samples; recent US evidence suggests that the very positive views of the economic status and distinct purchasing patterns of gays are exaggerated. It is, nonetheless, apparent that there is a market segment that it is 'economic' to target but which is unlikely to be representative of gay men. It is apparent that existing surveys are incomplete and are an inappropriate basis for targeting the gay consumer. The article also includes a discussion of marketing approaches to which, it is claimed, gay men are responsive. Whilst the targeting of the gay tourism market does have the effect of validating gay lifestyles, the article includes discussion of other more negative issues that may flow from the perpetuation of the 'myth' of the affluent, care-free gay con-sumer. These include issues such as the generation of a false sense of liberation and distraction from the pursuit of more fundamental aspects of equality. Lifestyle marketing in the context of the gay tourism market has wider and significant implications than those that are usually of direct concern to the marketer; they reach to the core of the nature of homosexuality and its acceptance in society.

Keywords: Gay tourism; homosexuals and holidays; market segmentation; lifestyle marketing