How to Better Serve Gay Customers -- New Online Training Program Teaches Travel Industry
One of the most keenly sought-after travel segments is the gay and lesbian travel market. Worth billions annually, in 2008 more hotels, tour operators, travel agents and destinations than ever now actively target gay travelers.
But gay travelers say they often leave less than impressed -- as a result of experiencing poor customer service while on vacation.
Research shows that there can be a big difference between the advertising used to lure gay travelers to a particular property and the customer service they actually experience on vacation. Staff not familiar with the gay and lesbian community can feel unsure about what to say, or how to act, when serving gay customers -- leaving both customer and staff member feeling worse off as a result.
A new training and accreditation system -- GayComfort™ -- launching this week delivers an innovative and effective means to address these gay travel issues.
Delivered online, and developed by one of the world’s leading gay marketing specialists -- Out Now -- GayComfort™ redraws the customer service delivery landscape in the gay and lesbian travel market.
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™ delivers 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.
Johnson said that sometimes staff can be homophobic, but more often than not it can be a lack of practical experience in understanding gay travel concerns that leads to a bad customer service outcome.
“Many working in customer service in the travel industry, both young and old, are not that familiar with the gay and lesbian community,” said Johnson. “They wonder what phrase to use when referring to a same gender partner, or how to respond when told by a customer they are gay. Even how to deal with a double room booking at check-in can cause them concern. GayComfort™ gives staff the insight they need to deliver customer service in a way that makes the consumer feel respected, welcomed, comfortable and relaxed. All of which makes for increasing levels of repeat and referral business from the gay travel market.”
GayComfort™ has been welcomed by the global travel industry.
The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) has partnered with Out Now to bring GayComfort™ training to its members.
Tom Nibbio, Global Ambassador of IGLTA, responsible for the association’s worldwide membership and sponsorship growth, said the new GayComfort™ training program meets a strong market need.
“With literally billions in gay tourism dollars, euro and pounds up for grabs each year, it seems likely this product should find an industry ready and willing to learn how to improve the ways it delivers customer service to the gay travel segment,” Nibbio said. “This is history-in-the-making for our gay tourism industry!”
Berlin Tourism Marketing (BTM) has signed on to GayComfort™ as a Foundation Partner. Ralf Ostendorf, Sales Director of BTM called the new training product ’ground-breaking’. “With the advantages this innovative e-learning training program offers, staff will be able to deliver superior service to our lesbian and gay visitors,” Ostendorf said.
IGLTA is the leader of gay and lesbian travel globally, and is always working to make sure members are educated and aware of the needs and actions of the gay and lesbian travel consumer base.
Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now presented the ’Gay Travel Marketing Masterclass’ at London World Travel Market WTM, and is delivering an educational presentation on the importance of effective staff training at the 25th annual IGLTA convention being held in Las Vegas in May 2008.
ABOUT IGLTA AND OUT NOW:
Out Now works globally and was established in 1992. They are a gay market agency developing specialized strategic programs and services to help businesses more effectively understand and reach the gay and lesbian market. One of their core philosophies is stressing that gay and lesbian people are extremely diverse and should be marketed to as such, not in a homogenous way. More information is at www.OutNowconsulting.com.
IGLTA is the world’s leading authority, resource and representative of gay and lesbian travel. Membership is in 55 countries around the world and consists of accommodations, airlines, tour operators, travel agents, tourism offices and other key players in the tourism industry. IGLTA works to help the tourism industry attract gay and lesbian consumers and learn more about the gay and lesbian market. For more information please visit www.iglta.org.
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
GayComfort™ is a trademark of Out Now.
- Contact Information
- Ian Johnson
- Out Now
- Contact via E-mail
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