Expedia Opens a Gay Travel Store -- But It's Too Little, Too Late

Last Updated May 26, 2010 11:21 AM EDT

Expedia opened its LGBT Travel store Friday, which covers 15 cities with LGBT-friendly hotels, "gayborhoods" and other unexplained criteria. But after years of being in business, catering to a LGBT crowd this late in the game may not help the online travel agency. Travelocity and Orbitz have both been higher-profile with their microsites aimed at the gay-and-lesbian travel (Orbitz had commercials targeting the gay-and-lesbian community three years ago,) so is this an attempt to just cash in on the now-apparent commercial value?

Of course it is. Gays and lesbians spend approximately $63 billion on travel, according to Community Marketing Inc.'s annual study. What's worse for Expedia is that so many in the industry have marketed to gays and lesbians, including airlines, online travel agencies, hotels and even cities, it's become easier to notice travel sites that aren't catering to their community. (TripAdvisor so far has been called out for its limited visibility and resources for gay travel.)

So far critics are complaining the site seems to be stereotypically gauged to boozing and clubbing and that using the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association to vet hotels as gay-friendly seems arbitrarily based on where those travelers have gone -- venues like Seattle, Denver or Dallas were notably absent. While there are reasons for gay and lesbian travelers to want a gay-friendly hotel -- courteous staff, no odd questions or being made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome -- Expedia's service comes off as too little, too late. If it hopes to capitalize on serving an underserved market and promoting awareness of its gay travel product, Expedia should promote it on its home page, where absolutely no mention is made of gay or lesbian travel.

Companies who want gay and lesbian customers will have to be as comfortable with gay and lesbian visibility in order to get their cash.

Photo: kellogg
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