With months of cold, wet weather finally giving way to above-average temperatures in May, many LGBT Georgians are ready to hit the road — or the runway, or the cruise ship — as the summer travel season heats up.
“Travel remains a very important need for gay people,” says Bob Witeck, CEO of Witeck-Combs Communications, which studies LGBT consumers. Even the economy isn’t enough to keep gay travelers housebound this time of year, he notes.
“What we keep finding over and over again is that gay people are not immune to what is going on in the economy, but what seems different is they are cutting back less on certain things, and travel is one of them,” Witeck says. “They desire to keep traveling more than other people.”
Witeck’s firm is preparing to release new information about gay travel trends in the next few weeks, in conjunction with Harris Interactive. But he points to their poll conducted last April — when the recession was worse — to show that LGBT travelers weren’t cutting back on travel as much as their heterosexual counterparts even then.
Asked about airline travel for Summer 2009, 62 percent of LGBT survey respondents said their travel plans would stay the same or increase, compared to only 36 percent of heterosexuals.
Overall travel budgets showed similar trends: 58 percent of LGBT respondents said they would spend the same amount or more, compared to 49 percent of heterosexuals.
“We are driven by destination and event travel too, whether we are talking about gay sporting events or gay parties,” Witeck notes.
In other words, gay travel is often motivated not only by places to visit, but by the desire to meet up with LGBT people from around the country or even around the world, and experience what it feels like to be in the majority.
Sure, we sometimes just go to the beach, but we also go to gay Memorial Day in Pensacola or Sizzle in Miami.
Likewise, LGBT travelers who live outside Atlanta don’t only come to the city to visit; they come for Atlanta Pride and Black Gay Pride.
Whatever your travel preferences, there is likely an LGBT-inclusive option. Like getting back to nature? Visit any of the several gay-owned campgrounds in Georgia, take a lesbian white water rafting trip, make the trek to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, or even attend “Camp” Camp, a summer camp for gay adults.
Prefer hitting the seas? Many mainstream cruise lines have special gatherings for LGBT travelers, while gay and lesbian travel companies like Atlantis, Olivia, R Family Vacations and Sweet offer LGBT-exclusive trips.
Summer travel options are also increased by Atlanta Pride’s move from the end of June to October. Necessitated last year by drought restrictions on Piedmont Park, and continued by choice this year, the change frees up gay Georgians to travel to Pride festivals in other cities.
Nearby smaller Prides like those in Birmingham (June 4-13), Augusta (June 19), and Savannah (Sept. 11) make great day trips, while travelers who want to go further can experience the massive Pride celebrations in cities like San Francisco (June 26-27), New York City (June 19-27), and even Sao Paulo, Brazil (June 3-7), home to the world’s largest gay parade that draws attendance of over a million.
Here is a rundown of LGBT events happening this summer: