While many in the travel industry have finally begun to acknowledge the very real value of the multi-billion dollar LGBT travel sector, few have mastered the art of tapping into it respectfully and successfully.
Glitzy ad campaigns featuring happy, gay couples have failed to deliver upon the idyllic promise of service implied in their flawless images. Rather than being primped and pampered, gay travelers lured to such settings have actually been faced with less than stellar customer service delivered by staff not familiar with the gay and lesbian community.
This week, Out Now Consulting, one of the world’s leading gay marketing specialists, launched GayComfort, a new training and accreditation system aimed at helping the travel industry better address the concerns of the gay and lesbian market by reshaping the customer service delivery landscape.
According to CEO of Out Now, Ian Johnson, the product meets a need on both the consumer and supplier sides.
“Gay travelers have for years been telling us stories of bad customer service ruining their vacations” said Johnson. “From mild discomfort to outright homophobia, the stories differ, but one thing is constant. The result has been that many gay people experience stress at various stages of a vacation—from making a booking to hotel check-in to ordering room service. They are unsure how each individual staff member might react to them being gay. When you think that the whole point of a vacation is to relax and feel comfortable, that situation is far from ideal”
GayComfort’s solution involves a comprehensive online learning program covering a range of areas including: how gay customers differ from other customers, how they are the same, what concerns them when dealing with travel industry staff, what language to use and what words or phrases to avoid.
The training includes myths and stereotypes, practical advice, key do’s and don’ts as well as a quiz to test each student’s learning of the material covered.
So far the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) has partnered with Out Now to bring GayComfort training to its members and Berlin Tourism Marketing (BTM) has signed on to GayComfort as a Foundation Partner.
All of this may not mean an immediate end to the less than equitable treatment experienced by the LGBT community on vacation, but it certainly means a move in the positive direction. And that is a very good thing.