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A typology of gay leisure travellers : an African perspective
Over the last two decades, academic literature, various market research studies, and media reports have widely contributed to the belief that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) market, and more specifically the gay male sub-segment, display favourable characteristics for the tourism industry. As recently as 2017, gay travel was regarded as one of the fastest-growing markets in the international travel industry. It is thus clear that the importance of this market, whether accurate or not, has been well documented over the years and is well known by the tourism industry; however, despite an increasing trend where tourism destinations promote themselves as ‘gay friendly’ in an attempt to attract gay (homosexual) travellers, a segment of the LGBT travel market, these travellers are perceived to be a homogeneous market segment or a niche market as a result of the assumption that gay men and women lead similar lifestyles and because they are homosexual, indicating that sexual orientation is used as the principal distinguishing characteristic of this population. This assumption is problematic and rather simplistic as it conceals many other important variables, and may hinder effective destination marketing. In order to correctly harness the existing potential within this segment, there is a need to overcome the challenge of correctly understanding and adapting the tourism offering to the preferences and needs of gay travellers; hence this research aimed to develop a typology of gay leisure travellers, by segmenting gay travellers into homogeneous sub-segments in an attempt to contribute to the gap in literature regarding this market’s heterogeneity. A web-based electronic survey was completed by 506 gay travellers, and attribute-based benefit segmentation was carried out by applying a hierarchical cluster analysis using Ward’s procedure with Euclidean distances. The typology is based on the push and pull framework; the motivations of travellers were assessed both in terms of their socio-psychological motivations and destination attributes of Cape Town. A number of conclusions can be drawn from the suggested typology of gay leisure travellers. First, the typology suggests four unique gay travel sub-segments ranging from Passive Relaxers on the one end to Wildlife Explorers, Culinary Enthusiasts/Foodies and Gay-Centric Travellers on the extreme end, which empirically proves that gay travellers are not homogeneous as there are sub-segments of gay travellers with different consumer behaviours. Therefore, these sub-segments may be referred to as niches as individuals within these sub-groups are homogeneous in certain characteristics. Second, there are two sub-segments in which travellers’ behaviour is not influenced by their sexuality, while the sexuality of travellers in the two other sub-segments influences their travel behaviour to varying degrees. Third, there is evidence that the gay traveller is integrating with other larger mainstream market segments and that the literature on gay travel may soon find itself outdated as fewer gay individuals, as the typology shows, base their travel decisions solely on gay-related issues, possibly owing to an increasing societal acceptance of homosexuality and the insignificance of a ‘gay identity’ to many of the post-modern gay generation. Fourth, the typology shows that only a distinct sub-segment, the Gay-Centric Traveller, can be described as a gay tourist and that not all gay travellers or activities by these travellers can be labelled as gay tourism. Fifth, the typology may serve as a framework for relating the destination attributes (pull motivations), to the important push motivations that influence tourist decision making and travel behaviour, and is therefore useful to the destination in developing product and promotional strategies. Consequently, the identified sub-segments, each with its own set of motivations, could help the destination refine its target-marketing strategies and may assist in understanding the different opportunities each sub-segment presents.