Britain Courts Gay Tourists With a Less Sexy Approach

Duane Wells | February 16, 2007

LONDON — What types of images most inspire us to want to visit a destination? Is it the sights, the people or the promise of a particularly unusual carnal encounter? Heretofore, the general marketing by most popular destinations around the globe has consistently subscribed to the ‘sex sells’ school of advertising, particularly where the gay community has been concerned. However that philosophy appears to be changing and Great Britain is leading the way.

Reuters’ reports that gay tourism is now worth up to three billion pounds a year to the economy of London which puts the British capital in position to rival gay-friendly destinations like New York, Sydney and Amsterdam as a hot spot for gay visitors. In fact, The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) has recorded a 100 percent rise over the last year in companies offering specialist holidays to Britain.

All of this comes as little surprise given that London is home to the largest gay and lesbian population in Europe as well as some of Europe’s most talked about gay events like this year’s EuroPride Parade which will make its way through the nerve center of London, along the way touching such iconic thoroughfares as Oxford Street and Regent Street, and The London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival which this year takes place from March 29 through April 12 and represents the largest festival of its kind in Europe featuring around 120 film premieres as well as short films, master classes and interviews. But despite all of this, there is still a question of how to market these events and the city of London to the widest possible audience and the results of a new survey provide evidence that just maybe gay travelers are interested in a less sexy approach.

Up until now, gay travelers have been enticed to visit the Britain with posters of half-dressed men, Kylie Minogue and drag queens. But now, according to British publication, PinkPages, VisitBritain, the country's official tourism agency, is having to tone down its advertising approach. Research using focus groups in the USA, France and Germany found that potential visitors were being turned off by its cheesy, stereotypical and overtly sexual campaigns, the Daily Telegraph reports.

According to the research, typical gay tourists were more likely to visit the Chelsea Flower Show, or the famous Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, than the UK's gay scene.

Members of the focus groups thought the adverts designed to attract them to Britain were overly preoccupied with gay-friendly urban areas like Brighton and Manchester, when they were more interested in beauty spots like the Lake District.

One said: "I live in New York City – I get enough gay events here," reports the Telegraph.

American volunteers at focus groups in Chicago, New York and San Francisco especially took offence at the suggestion they might be looking for a "sex vacation."

VisitBritain say that as a result, their old advertising will be phased out, and that new material will feature same-sex couples enjoying country walks.

According to reports, VisitBritain's new ad campaigns may include traditional British images such Buckingham Palace guards dressed in the rainbow colors of the Gay Pride movement.

The research concluded: "Gays and lesbians are not going to Britain because they might see other gays and lesbians; their motivations and triggers are similar to those of other travelers.

"They consider Britain a sophisticated, wordly destination – and they want to see it portrayed as such. They do not want to see it presented in a cheesy way."

It’s a novel idea. Now let’s just see if it all works. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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