FRANKFURT/VIENNA (Reuters) - Vienna has joined a growing list of European cities seeking to attract lesbian and gay tourists who are expected to remain willing to spend on travel while other recession-hit travelers cut back.
City authorities in Vienna this month released a review of the Austrian capital’s gay and lesbian tourism strategy, deciding to focus on travelers interested in music, culture and history -- and with money to spend.
The review followed a study among gay and lesbian travelers from outside of Vienna that found their average household’s monthly net income was 385 euros ($500) higher than that of other tourists to Vienna.
Clemens Koeltringer, marketing analyst from the Vienna Tourists Board, said this target group was “high profile, luxury customers who go to the opera and enjoy very good food”.
“Vienna is not a Mykonos, it must not be,” Koeltringer told Reuters, referring to the Greek party destination. “This is the main reason we are differentiating ourselves.”
Vienna is not alone in identifying the potential of the gay and lesbian market.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) leisure travel is forecast to rise almost 10 percent to $181 billion in 2013, according to an LGBT Travel Report 2013 by marketing specialist Out Now Global.
Germany, Bulgaria and Greece were among other destinations promoting gay friendly credentials at the world’s leading travel trade show, the ITB Travel Fair, in Berlin earlier this month.
For example VisitBerlin, in joint partnership with participating hotels, launched the Pink Pillow Berlin Collection, a hotel network designed for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) guests.
Stefan Dimitrov, a PR consultant from Bulgaria, said he noticed a sharp increase in visitors to the gay section of the Sunny Beach resort on the Black Sea and set up a blog then a website offering travel tips and tour packages.
“It’s still my hobby at the moment,” he told Reuters. “I don’t know if it will work out but the interest here at ITB has been so huge I’ve had to get all the flyers and advertising reprinted.”
Miguel Gallego, a spokesman from the European Travel Commission (ETC), said Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian and Sitges in Spain already had strategies to attract more LGBT visitors, recognising it as an important, lucrative sector.
Briand Bedford-Eichler, managing editor of the Spartacus guide for gay-friendly accommodation, said acceptance of the gay sector had increased -- as well as awareness that gay travelers tend to holiday three to five times a year, and for more than just short breaks.
“More people want to offer products, because they realise it’s quite a lucrative market,” he told Reuters.
“Gay people are still travelling and still spending. It’s a niche that hasn’t been too affected by the crisis.”
An official guide to Vienna for gay and lesbian visitors states the city is more gay-oriented than people might imagine.
Vienna has allowed civil partnerships since January 2010, meaning gay couples can choose settings such as the former imperial residence Schoenbrunn palace to tie the knot in a civil ceremony then stay on for their honeymoon.
The city suggests walking tours to take in the Belvedere Palace, built by Prince Eugene of Savoy, a Habsburg general who historians widely agreed was gay, and the Vienna State Opera house, designed by two gay architects, one of whom committed suicide in 1868 after the building was criticised.
“The most impotant thing to leverage is the imperial heritage. Vienna is known and is world famous for music and culture, and the gay and lesbian segments are not different in (enjoying) that,” said Koeltringer.
Editing by Belinda Goldsmith