October 2019- Equality Travel
Each year after the summer heat subsides, the air turns cool, and the Halloween decorations come out, it seems that life moves in ‘fast forward’ all the way through the New Year. Many of us love to get away over the holidays, whether it’s to spend time with family, just unwind in a peaceful location, or set out on an adventure in an unfamiliar part of the world. But putting together a wonderful vacation requires time and resources many of us lack. The good news is that, no matter what your idea of the perfect holiday vacation involves, the folks at Equality Travel are ready to help. Owner Nick Gold says they are already busy planning holiday vacations for their regular clients, but there is still time to a winter getaway that’s perfectly suited to you. And they are eager to help!
Equality Travel is a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), an organization of LGBTQ+ friendly accommodations, destinations, service providers, travel agents, and tour operators in over 80 countries. They are also a member of the Luxury Gay Travel Network, and the LGBT Business Council – Greater Lehigh Valley. And, of course, Equality Travel is a proud member of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Many of our Chamber member companies are owned and operated by individuals who identify as LGBT, but not Equality Travel. Gold is an ally that saw an excellent business opportunity to serve the LGBT community because he knows we travel more frequently, plan longer stays and spend more money per day than the general population. In fact, estimates from Community Marketing, Inc. Annual LGBTQ Tourism and Hospitality Survey indicate that LGBT travelers out-spend the general population by a margin of 2-to-1. So, doing business with the LGBT community is just good business.
Gold started working at his father’s travel agency in London as a child, so he’s been in the travel industry all his life. His first venture focusing on a specific demographic was with Entertainment Travel, which he started 34 years ago. Entertainment Travel handles all the bookings for bands and other entertainment groups on their tours. Gold says that over the years they have served over 700 different bands and entertainment acts!
Gold first thought to expand his niche travel offerings to focus on the LGBT community years ago. He’d been talking to LGBT friends who expressed frustrations planning their travel. They said it was difficult to determine which destination cities and resorts were truly welcoming, versus those that merely tolerated LGBT guests to earn their travel dollars. Of course, those resort and travel websites wouldn’t differentiate between the two, and travel agents that weren’t focused on the LGBT community couldn’t differentiate between the two. “You can’t just slap a rainbow on your logo and claim to be LGBT-friendly,” Gold says. So, Gold started Equality Travel in 2013 to apply the same care and expert guidance that he’s provided travelers in the entertainment industry to the LGBT community.
At first, Gold wasn’t sure LGBT travelers would put their trust in travel agents from outside LGBT community to find the perfect travel experience that carefully addressed their needs. But he quickly learned that his clients would return to Equality Travel if he did the research and gained the expertise necessary to provide them great service. While Gold is not a member of the LGBT community, he sympathizes with the caution that many LGBT travelers have when considering their next destinations. He says anti-Semitism was all too common in London when he was growing up, so he understands the need to be aware of one’s surroundings. But Equality Travel goes beyond securing safe and comfortable travel plans for their clients, tailoring their travel plans to their interests. After all, the LGBT community is as diverse as the general population when it comes to their budgets, their desires, and their travel companions. Some travelers are looking for downtime, others are looking for a party scene, and a substantial number of Gen X and Baby Boomer LGBT travelers are bringing adult children and even grandchildren along with them. So, Equality Travel gets to know their clients and matches them up with just the right travel plans in just the right locations.
Gold says he does see generational differences among his clients that reflect their experiences living as LGBT people in a ‘straight world.’ He says older gay couples usually want to go to traditionally safe LGBT-friendly destinations such as Key West, Provincetown, and San Francisco, so destinations like these still comprise a hefty share of his business. In contrast, younger generations grew up feeling safe and comfortable most places they go, so they are more eager to travel to a wider variety of locations in the US and around the world. And while the world is changing and becoming more inclusive, informed agents like Equality Travel provide LGBT travelers with important details of resorts or a destination cities so that they can make informed decisions among options. And of course, they’ll know what to expect from their chosen destination when they arrive. For example, Jamaica is a wonderful place to visit if LGBT couples refrain from public displays of affection. And if that type of openness is an important part of your vacation, Equality Travel would be sure to steer you somewhere else. And there are plenty of international destinations that would provide the perfect surroundings for your next adventure. Gold says they’ve booked clients in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the Caribbean, and even on South African safaris. Gold says, “Our clients trust us, as we understand all of their travel needs.”
Equality Travel agent Stephanie Saal says that she and Gold expect that most people are doing their own research, consulting travel websites and talking to friends before getting in touch with Equality Travel. So, most clients have a general idea of what type of vacation they want and what part of the world they’d like to see. From there, Equality Travel can help clients set a budget – which is crucial for narrowing down choices in accommodations and activities – as well as the best time of year to travel to those locations. More importantly, the folks at Equality Travel spend time in these locations to get to know the critical details that property websites and travel sites may not have. Gold says that when traveling to potential locations to send his clients, he always aligns himself with the tourist board and meets with them to get to know his surroundings better. He always asked if there is a part of town when LGBT live and gather, so he can go and learn the nuances of whether those localities are merely tolerant or truly LGBT-welcoming.
Gold says, “We can help you select your best cruise, land tour or resort options through popular LGBT tour operators or we can create inspired, exclusive itineraries just for you. We take very seriously our role in helping our LGBT clients select destinations and properties where they are welcomed and will feel comfortable.”