U.S. Census numbers indicate that gays and lesbians live in every part of the United States. Most of them are intelligent, educated, and technologically attuned. Many of them are wealthy. They enjoy spending their money on travel and luxury goods.
For example, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants did a research survey, because they wanted to attract gay and lesbian customers. The result? Lesbian businesswomen, who take frequent vacations and stay in luxury hotels, have the same values, lifestyles and hobbies as their heterosexual counterparts. They enjoy spas, exercise facilities, tasteful interior décor, and personal services, such as massages and facials. Lesbian customers prefer to spend their money at businesses that support feminist causes and other non-profit organizations.
Kimpton now offers getaway packages to lesbians and heterosexual women, both of which are a steadily growing source of revenue for Kimpton.
Another example is Budget car rental company. Budget instituted a marketing campaign targeting gay men. It was quite simple, but very effective. Budget treats gay partners as if they were married. There is no surcharge for another driver. Gay customers like this kind of treatment. They remember it. Whenever they travel, they come back to Budget.
Obviously, Budget car rental is not a luxury service. But that’s not the point. The point is how Budget markets its services to the gay community. Budget simply recognizes gay partners as couples. It doesn’t cost Budget anything to do this. In fact, it makes the company money because it attracts customers to what they perceive as an unbiased company. Budget gained new customers and loyalty to the Budget brand by means of a simple policy change. Any individual or business desiring to sell luxury services and goods to the gay community need only embrace Budget’s concept. Treat gay partners as legitimate couples and see what happens.
Las Vegas took Budget’s idea and expanded it. The casinos, hotels and restaurants on the Strip decided to treat gay partners the same as heterosexual couples. They placed advertisements in gay and lesbian magazines. Through strong visual images, the advertisements presented the idea that Vegas welcomes gay and lesbian customers. Not only welcomes them, but has services, products and experiences specifically for them. For example, the Luxor Hotel offers night clubs shows that feature gay and lesbian performers, including comedians, magicians, and dancers. The popular Paris Hotel and Casino also provides gay and lesbian entertainment. Their website GayParisVegas.com acquaints potential customers with forthcoming concerts, shows, and events of special interest to the gay and lesbian community. The website is sophisticated, tasteful, and targeted. Its very existence informs affluent gay and lesbian customers that the Paris Hotel and Casino appreciates them as valued clients.
Luxury cruises have also begun marketing to the affluent gay customer. Cruise agents take the time to call gay clients and, when possible, take them to lunch or send them notes. Communication is the key.
The agents inform potential gay customers of enrichment cruises, where entertainment and education are combined to provide a rewarding experience. Theme cruises for gay couples or families are scheduled on a regular basis. A typical theme cruise is one that caters to lesbian mothers and their children. Another theme cruise is for gay partners only, and features commitment ceremonies.
According to Gregg Michel of Crystal Cruises, enthusiasm is important. “People get interested when you talk to them. They get enthusiastic because you’re enthusiastic.” Which reiterates and emphasizes the idea that enthusiasm is contagious. Michel added, “the idea of splurge may be gone. People are looking for experiences.” So the best way to sell luxury cruises is to stress value, choice, adventure, and exclusivity.
Travel Agent advises cruise agents to stay in touch with former customers, because it is easier to convince them to sail again. Statistics show that 66% of those who cruised will cruise again within 18 months.
Gay clients perceive luxury cruises as an extension of their normal lifestyle. Which means that luxury cruise lines need to constantly invest in upgrades to protect their brand integrity. Affluent gay customers expect perks and outstanding service. An adventure to be remembered is what the affluent client is seeking.
From this it becomes evident that the affluent gay customer cannot be marketed to like any other affluent customer. Their unique needs must be targeted with distinct experiences designed for them.
Marketing targeted to affluent same-sex customers involves:
Supporting gay community causes and events.
Advertising in gay publications.
Having an online presence.
Packaging luxury goods as part of a total lifestyle.
Continually searching for ways to upgrade services and products.
Providing unique and memorable experiences.