Ten years of activity were celebrated recently at the Hotel Radisson Blu Rome surrounded by the trade press with whom Alessio Virgili, sole director/founder and director of the Tour Operator, Quiiky, shared his success in the LGBT market in Italy.
A pioneer in the market, Virgili’s company, Quiiky, now part of Saunders & Beach Group, achieved the 10-year goal of being in business, but not without facing initial prejudices on the part of retailers of LGBT products as well as by customers not ready to expose themselves to criticism.
“Today, we are faced with changes in a market that has evolved to the point that we have opened the way to the competition. We have faced it by creating a unique product, the Untold History Tours (UHT), unpublished itineraries touching on known destinations/sites focused on culture for a medium-high target. A wise solution to avoid the battle of the competitor’s price and avoiding to become a market killer.”
The UHT, said Virgili, tells from the little-known facts behind the scenes of for example, the Vatican Museums, of Michelangelo’s homosexuality to anecdotes about Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of gays. The UHT proposals are already a success in Italy and landed on the pages of the New York Times. It has echoed in Greece, Berlin, Dresden, Israel, Thailand, and the southern USA, the East Coast, and San Francisco. Uncommon proposals are attracting LGBT tourists interested in their history identity.
These tours include the American East Coast and San Francisco on the LGBT movement traces which started with Harvey Milk. It includes historic cities such as Massachusetts, and museums in Boston and Northampton where the gay women’s movement achieved particular significance.
In Tel Aviv, Israel, tourists will visit the sites of memory of homosexual victims of the Holocaust as well as points of biblical stories focusing on the platonic love of King David and Jonathan or in the place where it is assumed that the city of Sodom existed. From there, it’s on to Greece from Athens to Thessaloniki where homosexuality was a lifestyle not a sin. It starts from Alexander the Great to the myth of Maria Callas, a gay icon par excellence.
According to Quiiky, they recently re-joined recently Visit USA, an active association in doing promotions in an important market by garrisoning it with an exclusive location in San Francisco as well as those of Milan and Rome.
How does the Italian market contribute?
“At present, we deal with 700 partner travel agents and 3,000 more with non-preferential rapport,” explains Virgili. “Our sales turnover is basic: 11% of the 3 million Italian homosexuals talk to them while direct sales reach important numbers. The promotion is planned with our presence at trade fairs: The Gay Tourism Expo, the Show Case at Naples on March 6 and 7, TTG in Rimini, and the new Bit held from April 2-4 at Fiera Milano City. Performances are planned for the consumer with international DJs and drag queens, plus two conferences on the economy: one on the LGBT market of the third millennium, the other on civil unions. As an ambassador for Italy of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) I’ll attend the world convention in St. Petersburg.”
What about Quiiky’s economic trend?
“Turnover and passengers grew evenly by 35% with distinction of the Canary Islands, Israel, and the US (East Coast, California, Florida, and Key West). As for the European capitals, Berlin and Zurich are at the top for short breaks. Fast growing is Thailand, which since last year decided to invest in the LGBT market, then Cuba and Mexico.
“The turnover in 2016 was 15%, derived from incoming to the main destinations Milan, Rome, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast, while for the long holiday, Sicily was the absolute protagonist.”
Any planning on 2017 investments?
“The investments planned for the year 2017 are in part in collaboration with ‘Visit USA’ for initiatives directed to the trade, while sponsorship of LGBT events in Milan such as ‘La Cesira’ and the Gay Village in Rome are planned for the consumer. The main effort will be focusing on the social web with massive promotional campaigns also suitable for the international market.”