Gay Travel Market Shows Resilience in Recession

May 6, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Financial Services | Media & Entertainment | Travel & Hospitality

Despite the current economic downturn, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) consumers in the US are likely to spend more on travel this summer than heterosexuals, and are less likely to cut back on meals and lodging while they are traveling, according to (pdf) a national survey from Witeck Combs Communications and Harris Interactive.

The study shows marked differences between the American GLBT and heterosexual populations in terms of travel expectations over the next four months. On balance, for all American adults sampled who also say they plan to travel this summer, GLBT consumers report on average they are likely to spend about $2,300 between May and August 2009 for both leisure and business travel. Heterosexuals on average are likely to spend about $1,500 during that same period.


The survey examined ways that US travel consumers plan to economize or to specifically reduce their leisure travel budget this summer – compared with their leisure travel last summer. It found that when all adults who traveled a year ago are asked whether they will increase, decrease or take the same number of airline trips this coming summer – 62% of GLBT respondents say they will take the same number (55%) or increase (7%), while only 36% of heterosexuals also say they will take the same number (27%) or increase trips (9%).


Similarly, respondents in both groups who traveled last summer were asked if they expected to spend more, less or about the same on travel this summer as they did a year ago. Nearly six in 10 (58%) of GLBT adults say they will spend the same (53%) or more (5%), while 49% of heterosexuals say they will spend the same (39%) or more (10%).

Cost-Cutting Strategies

In terms of cutting the cost of leisure travel in next four months, gay and non-gay travelers think slightly differently, the research found. When those who are cutting down on leisure travel spending were asked which actions (if any) they will take to reduce leisure travel expenses:


  • 61% of heterosexuals and 51% of GLBT adults say they will find less expensive activities.
  • 60% of heterosexuals and 42% of GLBT adults will find less expensive meal options.
  • 69% of GLBT adults and 51% of heterosexuals say they will find less expensive accommodations.
  • 39% of heterosexuals will cook their own meals rather than dining out, but only 24% of GLBT adults will do the same.
  • 39% of heterosexuals say they will stay with friends or family instead of paying for lodging, but only 26% of GLBT adults will do the same.
  • 32% of heterosexuals will stay home and take a “staycation,” but only 18% of GLBT adults will do the same.

Though Witeck-Combs acknowledges that gay households, like many others, are struggling during this recession, the firm still believe that new destinations, new trips and new opportunities matter – which is a hopeful sign for all travel leaders.

“The global economy today throws a stark light on current travel and hospitality trends, and will clearly shape and reshape consumer plans for the rest of 2009,” said Bob Witeck, CEO of Witeck-Combs Communications. “All of us must cope, yet with these findings GLBT households again confirm that travel remains a comparatively strong priority even within shrinking household budgets.”

GLBTs More Sanguine about Economy

The online survey also revealed that GLBTs are slightly more sanguine than heterosexuals about the country’s and their own economic prospects in the coming year. When the entire sample of US adults was asked their expectations for the nation’s economy as well as their own household’s financial condition, 39% of heterosexuals predict improvement in the coming year, while 49% of GLBT adults do.

Moreover, when asked specifically about their own household financial conditions, 34% of GLBT households expect them to improve in the next 6 months (with 16% expecting them to worsen) – compared with 23% of heterosexuals expecting improvement, and 32% expecting them to worsen.

About the research: Harris Interactive conducted the study online within the US between April 13 and 21, 2009, among 2,401 adults (ages 18+), of whom 2,196 indicated they are heterosexual and 146 self-identified as GLBT. Figures for age, sex, race, education, region and income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. In addition, the results for the gay and lesbian sample were weighted separately based on profiles of the gay and lesbian population that Harris Interactive has compiled through various online surveys. Propensity score weighting also was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. The survey was completed prior to the recent swine flu outbreak.

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