The LGBT market represents 8% of the global tourism spend

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#ActivatingLGBT
An image of a lesbian couple, reflecting the concept of LGBT purchasing power. Photo Credit: www.cbc.ca

An economically empowered community is a stronger community

This concept was highlighted by the Colombian LGBT Chamber of Commerce who yesterday and today are hosting a business development conference entitled #ActivatingLGBT at the Estalar hotel in Barranquilla’s Alto Prado district.

This two day event focuses in on the economics of the gay community, specifically pinpointing Colombian markets for gay consumerism and tourism. For any community that embraces it, the gay demographic represents an enormous potential influx of revenue, far too high to ignore.

Globally, in 2014, the combined purchasing power of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) population was $884,000,000,000 USD.  That’s more than twice Colombia’s entire GDP.

Last year across Colombia, just over five million people self-identified as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. Together, they represented approximately $13,000,000 USD of buying power.

Exclusivity and Loyalty

The so-called Pink Dollar has become a global market valuation and for quite some time there has been a perception that gay couples are wealthier and more travelled than their straight counterparts. The term, DINK (dual income, no kids), has become a symbol of the community but in reality, there is little data to support this assertion, especially in countries such as Colombia where almost no related analysis has been performed.

Nevertheless, in more progressive regions, it has been shown again and again that brands who actively open their doors to the LGBT community through positive advertising and LGBT-friendly social contribution are specifically sought out by this market and conversely, companies negatively perceived by the gay community are more often than not shunned or boycotted. According to the aformentioned study, 88% of gay adults were likely “to consider a brand that is known to provide equal workplace benefits for all of their employees, including gay and lesbian employees.”

As a business owner, you can’t ignore purchasing power and you can’t forego your social responsibility. Most large companies are fully on-board and in fact, 375 companies from the Fortune-500 list were given an award last year by the Human Rights Commission for their incredible contributions to gay equality. That group has also developed a shopping-list for workers seeking gay-friendly employers.

Some gay-friendly brands who have made major contributions to the LGBT community include HBO, Facebook, Google, Subway, Samsung, Nike, Apple, NBA, NFL, Tiffany & Co, Netflix, and Amazon.

“Gay men and lesbians own more homes and cars, travel more, spend more on electronics, and have the largest amount of disposable income of any niche market. And it’s a sizeable niche: LGBT consumers make up 5% to 10% of the U.S. consumer market.”16th Annual Gay and Lesbian Tourism Report

Meanwhile, in Europe, there are approximately 23 million LGBT citizens who together contribute to an average annual tourism expenditure exceeding 40 billion euros ($63-$68 billion USD). Europe represents a massive LGBT buying market.

Here in Barranquilla, there are very few, if any, mainstream businesses aligning themselves with the gay community and in general, gay people still feel quite marginalized. That’s not a culture we can afford to maintain if we want to have any hope of attracting tourism or capturing this quickly emerging market.

I spoke with a few people yesterday at the conference and got their opinions on the state of affairs in Barranquilla:

What does this conference mean to you?
“It’s a great thing for the community to be receptive and open to LGBT business. We need to open our eyes to this new market.” – Silvia Solano

Do you think that Barranquilla is opening its mind? 
Yes of course. Barranquilla is growing alot. Even if we’re machistas, we can learn very quickly to change our behaviours. – Silvia Solano

“I do think its getting progressive on being more open minded. We need to work more on our politics, our community to introduce them to a way to accept gay people in general. I do think they are becoming more open minded.” – Anonymous

What do you think is necessary for Barranquilla to accept the gay community?
“We’re in a third world country and we’re having problems with the people who are close-minded. We need to go to schools and colleges and universities to teach people how to deal with this issue and how to be more accepting. People here aren’t educated enough. We need to improve that. – Anonymous

Interview at #ActivatingLGBT 2016

Missing from the opening event yesterday morning were the governor of Atlantico and the mayor of Barranquilla, Dr. Eduardo Verano and Alejandro Char respectively, both of whom were invited by the Chamber of Commerce and both of whom sent representatives in their stead. Both were listed on the event agenda and for many attendees, their lack of personal attention speaks volumes in their disregard for the community in general.

“I’m not surprised they (Verano and Char) didn’t show up to #ActivatingLGBT. If they really cared they would have at least shown their face and said hello. They just don’t see how important our community is.. How much money we represent. That’s ok.. They will.”
Edgar Atrepe Beliz, Entreprenuer

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