When it comes to destination websites, there are the good, the bad, and—let’s be honest—the ugly. Effective websites have creative, relevant information that serve potential travelers; after all, they should be the first port of call for anyone looking for ideas for their next vacation. And although many destination websites do a great job covering the basics for your average mainstream traveler—trending eateries, the best family-friendly museums, independent shopping—the content for LGBTQ+ travelers often isn’t up to par (if it exists at all).
Whether your destination has zero LGBTQ-focused content or an entire section, there’s still likely room for improvement: A lot of destination marketing teams (whether internal or external) don’t have dedicated LGBTQ+ leads to ensure that the information a) exists, b) is relevant, or c) feels authentic for potential visitors.
Here are 8 mistakes destinations often make:
1) There’s no LGBTQ+ content. At all. For LGBTQ+ travelers, this information is essential: They’re more likely to visit a destination if it has targeted content and more likely to actively opt out of choosing a destination if that content doesn’t exist. Some destination websites have content for families, seniors, wine tourists, and travelers with special access needs—yet nothing for LGBTQ+ travelers. That simply won’t fly with a rainbow family looking for their next city break.
2) Your destination doesn’t inform LGBTQ+ tourists about local laws and customs. Whether your destination is conservative or go-for-it liberal when it comes to things like PDA between same-sex couples, information regarding local laws and customs is critical for travelers to feel informed ahead of and during their holiday. Particularly if you’re from a relatively liberal destination, don’t assume that everyone comes from that same background: Clearly outlining the norms goes a long way to making LGBTQ+ travelers feel seen and safe.
3) You haven’t updated your LGBTQ+ content in a year (or more). Get on that. No one wants to read a listicle of great bars to hit during pride from 3 years ago. At best it's unwelcoming; at worst it positions the LGBTQ+ tourist experience as a low-priority focus.
4) Your LGBTQ+ stock images are all of young, hot, white guys in Speedos. There are so many destination websites that have LGBTQ+ sections with variations on the exact same photo: white muscle-y dudes in swimwear. These images are hardly representative of the five-plus letters in the LGBTQ+ acronym—never mind the ‘G’ alone—nor are they representative of actual visitors. The first step to attracting tourists is by giving them the ability to picture themselves in the destination, and that means images that are representative of all ethnicities, genders, ages, and sexualities.
5) You only post LGBTQ+ content during Pride season. It comes down to this: If you’re going to talk the talk about how welcoming and inclusive your destination is, you have to have the goods to back it up the rest of the year. Having an expensive token campaign—however well-intentioned and well-executed—means nothing if you don’t provide needed resources for LGBTQ+ tourists when they turn to your website for more information or choose to visit off-season.
6) You only use LGBTQ+ images for LGBTQ-specific content. LGBTQ+ people don’t live in their own little bubble. Tweet a photo of a lesbian couple enjoying dinner together as a lead-in to Restaurant Week content; have a rainbow family enjoying a day at the aquarium together in the “mainstream” family content. Visibility and normalization lead to tolerance and acceptance.
7) Your LGBTQ+ content only covers nightlife. LGBTQ+ people are as multidimensional as everyone else. Give these tourists the best queer bookstore in town to grab some vacation reads in. Give them a Q&A about a transgender restaurant owner who’s doing big things with the city’s foodie scene. Nightlife is great, but life happens during the day, too—and spaces for LGBTQ+ tourists exist then, too.
8) No, LGBTQ+ tourists aren’t a separate “market” to address. Yes, this sounds counter-intuitive. We frequently hear from destinations that aren’t “targeting the LGBTQ+ market” or don’t “have budget for the LGBTQ+ market.” Because LGBTQ+ tourists live everywhere and come from all corners of the globe, this reasoning holds up just as well as if you were to say “Well, we’re not targeting families, so we don’t need content for them.” Rather than think of LGBTQ+ as a market in the same way you think of the German market or UK market, remember that these travelers exist all over the world—just as families and senior tourists do. You provide content for them—why would you miss out on providing content for high-spending, frequently vacationing LGBTQ+ tourists?
Based in Berlin and Glasgow, KOG was founded by Krystin Arneson and Gordon Smith with an aim of raising the bar in how travel brands communicate with the LGBTQ+ community.