Companies team up to reach LGBT travelers

Facebook offering interactive utility for users to share experiences


Openly gay Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes said the popular social networking site was always meant to be gay-friendly.

Online social networking companies are teaming up with leading travel and transportation agencies in an effort to reach out to the LGBT traveler. The most recent companies to jump into the fray include Facebook, PlanetOut, American Airlines and Expedia.

Facebook, one of the largest and most popular social networking sites in the nation, is teaming up with American Airlines to offer a new, interactive application for users.

The application, Travel Bag, makes it easy for users to share travel experiences with friends in their network; offer and read reviews and comments on restaurants, shops and other destinations; and create countdowns for upcoming events or trips to let friends know what they’re doing.

American Airlines is just one of many companies realizing the buying power and travel habits of the LGBT community. The company took its cue from a 2007 market study with experts at Witeck-Combs Communications. They found that among all online adults, and excluding email, nearly twice as many gay men and lesbians (32 percent) say they are online between 24 and 168 hours per week, compared with 18 percent of heterosexual adults.

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Making the choice to go with Facebook wasn’t difficult for the company either. The same study found that Facebook was among the most popular online social networks for LGBT web users.

Openly gay Facebook co-founder and spokesman Chris Hughes (who is currently working for Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential bid) told The Advocate in October 2005 that “from the beginning Facebook wanted to be gay-friendly” and that the social utility wanted “to open up as much space as possible for different identities.”

The Travel Bag application will include a link to American Airlines’ website and its LGBT-specific travel site. According to a press release Facebook users will be able to check for low fares, make reservations and check gate and arrival/departure information, among other tasks.

“With our dedicated LGBT sales and marketing managers, the Rainbow TeAAm as well as our dedicated gay-welcoming web presence at www.aa.com/rainbow, we are committed to finding more ways to speak to our most loyal travelers online,” said Tim Kincaid, corporate communications manager for American Airlines. “Working with excellent partners like Facebook gives us even greater connectivity in the online world that is so vital to LGBT households.”

American Airlines’ entry into the Facebook scene places them among hundreds of companies and organizations using the site to connect with potential customers, members
or volunteers.

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Facebook has come under scrutiny in the past for making public too much private data and for possibly using Facebook users’ personal information for targeted advertising.
PlanetOut and about LGBT-focused media giant and Advocate owner PlanetOut is also teaming up with a travel company.

Expedia.com and PlanetOut.com have partnered to offer exclusive travel deals on PlanetOut’s extensive LGBT web network that includes PlanetOut.com, Gay.com and OutTraveler.com. The companies hope the partnership will help consumers research, plan and purchase their various vacationing desires.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to partner with the LGBT community and its trend-setting travelers,” said Sarah Pynchon, vice president of brand marketing for Expedia. “Working hand-in-hand with PlanetOut will pair Expedia’s extensive wealth of content, booking tools and travel expertise with their passionate audience, creating a more tailored travel planning experience.”

In addition to providing booking capabilites for PlanetOut sites, Expedia will participate in online and offline advertising throughout the PlanetOut media network as well as sponsorship of select PlanetOut events.

Be sure to check out Q-Notes’ May 17 Travel Issue for information on great gay getaways and more.

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