BY SID MARCH
Thomas Roth is the founder and president of Community Marketing, Inc, (CMI) an LGBT marketing and consulting firm based in San Francisco. Hosting major events like the Annual Conference on Gay & Lesbian Tourism and the Annual Conference on Gay & Lesbian Marketing, CMI has stressed the value of LGBT consumers for two decades. The conferences provide seminars, resources and enhance networking opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs looking to accommodate, welcome or develop their LGBT client base. Most recently, the 13th Annual Gay & Lesbian Tourism Conference was held in San Francisco.
What is the ultimate goal of the Annual Conference on Gay & Lesbian Tourism? How did it all get started?
Community Marketing started the International Conference on Gay & Lesbian Tourism to bring sales and marketing staff of tourism bureaus, airlines, hotels and other travel-related businesses together once a year to share success stories and challenges. The intent was that by everyone sharing their strategies and insights with each other, together we could grow the LGBT tourism industry and make the world a more LGBT-welcoming place.
What were the highlights of this year’s conference?
This year the conference featured, not surprisingly, many internet and mobile marketing workshops and speakers. With the LGBT community being early adopters of technology, many web-based sales and marketing techniques start with the LGBT community. The conference also featured a very inspirational talk by Kate Kendall, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
You offer workshops and seminars targeting specific markets, like Canadians coming south, how to keep and maintain lesbian clientele and even a guide for straight guys and gay marketing. What kind of seminar tends to be most popular?
We feature a range of workshops for the beginner to more experienced marketing staff. The variety is the key, so there is something for everyone.
Who does the conference typically attract? Do you have a very international attendance?
Attendance is from around the word, […] participants do tend to come from companies and destinations that have an LGBT-friendly reputation, but they are not always big cities. This year we had representation from the “usual suspects” such as the tourism bureaus of San Francisco, Provincetown, Palm Springs and Philadelphia, but also emerging destinations like Fargo, North Dakota, which is a very LGBT-friendly destination.
Does the conference solely address the gay and lesbian community or is it more all-encompassing? Has there been any specific information on welcoming or marketing to the trans* community, for instance?
Over the years, the conference has featured speakers representing both the transgender and bisexual communities, with very favorable response. But the amount of research and resources for the transgender and bisexual communities is still very limited in the LGBT travel industry and therefore most discussion centers back on to lesbian and gay.
Have you had interest/involvement from any companies or businesses that came as a welcome surprise to you?
Every year there is representation that surprises me. I mentioned Fargo already. This year we also had a tour operator from China, and over the past few years we have seen emerging participation from India, Nepal, Thailand and Japan.
In your expert opinion, aside from San Francisco, where is the place to visit for LGBTQ travelers? Are there any regions or cities that are great destinations for the community that we aren’t visiting enough?
I can’t answer a question like that without making someone mad! But in all honesty, we are seeing increasing diversification in LGBT travel over the years. The travel interests of a 25 year single gay guy is so different than a 65 year old lesbian couple that have been together for 30 years. What is inspiring is that a lot of the world seems to be opening up to the LGBT community.
The next conference will be the 6th Annual Gay and Lesbian Marketing Conference in New York City, April 12, 2013.