Marriott International is going after the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community with a new US social media and marketing campaign. It joins a number of major hotel chains aggressively trying to lure the lucrative clientele.
#LoveTravels will feature images wrapped around five hotels in Washington, D.C., print ads in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) media, an online portrait gallery and other ads in various US cities. The ads will feature openly gay NBA player Jason Collins, among other spokespeople. Images and videos plus personal stories will be available at LoveTravels.Marriott.com and at Marriott.com/gaytravel.
Marriott's campaign is the latest example of the hotel industry stepping up its efforts to lure LGBT travellers. While the company says it is targeting the community to make LGBT travellers feel more welcome, there's also a business incentive. According to Out Now Global, an LGBT marketing specialist group, the potential value of the LGBT travel market was set to reach US$181 billion (A$195.83 billion) last year.
The US Supreme Court's striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act and the expansion of marriage equality has sparked more businesses to publicly reach out to the community.
"It's almost expected at this point in the LGBT community," says David Paisley, senior research director at Community Marketing and Insights, an LGBT marketing research firm.
Since its start in San Francisco in the 1980s, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants has been at the forefront with its support of community organisations advocating for the LGBT community.
But many other hotels have followed suit.
Preferred Hotel Group launched the Preferred Pride program in 2011 with more than 120 gay-welcoming independent hotels and resorts in 20 countries. OUT NYC has called itself the first gay hotel in New York City. Hilton Worldwide has a gay travel package and a website dedicated to helping LGBT guests plan their vacations.
Marriott's campaign will run through November. Braden Summers, a celebrity photographer, shot the photos of Collins, fashion model Geena Rocero, and Marriott employee Talisha Padgett-Matthews.
"Our goal is really to educate and engage and shift perception of our portfolio brand," says Kristine Friend, senior director of segment marketing for Marriott International. "We've decided to kick off a holistic campaign that really helps celebrate inclusiveness and beautifully illustrates our desire to make people feel at home at our hotels."
Rick Stiffler, Preferred Hotel Group's vice president of Leisure Sales, says hotels have no other choice but to pay attention to the LGBT traveller given how much they spend on travel.
"It's in the billions and that really has a lot of people paying attention to the LGBT market," he says. "I think if you're not paying attention, you're definitely missing the boat. For us, it's not only the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do."
Collins, who spent part of last season with the Brooklyn Nets, calls Marriott's outreach program "important not only to the LGBT community but to society in general."
He adds, "When I travel with a boyfriend, we really want to feel that sense of inclusiveness regardless of our sexual orientation or religion. We want that feeling of being welcome."