To mark the beginning of Pride Month, all of us at Madden want to reaffirm our commitments to the LGBTQIA+ community and to fostering safe and inclusive experiences for all travelers.
Connecting people across places
Our tagline is “connecting people to places,” and we believe that, by helping visitors to discover and explore destinations, we are also doing the important work of building relationships between people and different ways of life. To borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
Spotlighting LGBTQIA+ travel stories 365 days a year
At Madden, we don’t just work to inspire empathy and bridge communities one month out of the year. We work closely with our clients to share the unique and diverse experiences of the members of their communities year-round through representative storytelling and the development of inclusive creative assets. Centering LGBTQIA+ voices allows us to credibly market destinations to travelers who might have concerns about visiting a new destination.
As discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals continues to rise, it’s especially important today for LGBTQIA+ travelers to know where they can travel and find friendly environments and welcoming leisure experiences. LGBTQIA+ travelers have legitimate concerns about avoiding risks while traveling. Recently, many of the top travel and hospitality brands publicly opposed state laws. International travel can be especially risky for LGBTQIA+ individuals. These factors are on top of the existing societal challenges some LGBTQIA+ individuals experience.
By highlighting welcoming environments for LGBTQIA+ travelers, we knock down barriers to visitation and harmful monolithic perceptions of destinations. Representation and recognition are powerful tools for DMOs and activists alike. We’re proud of the work that we’ve done to amplify LGBTQIA+ stories in Buffalo, Oakland, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Palm Springs, and we look forward to our upcoming promoting LGBTQIA+ stories for destinations across the country.
Being real about the value of, and challenges to, diversity
We believe that helping destinations celebrate their LGBTQIA+ partners, residents, and visitors is not just the right thing to do, but a necessary thing to do. We understand, however, that destinations might be experiencing pressure from inside their communities to shy away from or ignore LGBTQIA+ stories and audiences. In our experience, these pressures come from people motivated to avoid backlash from a loud minority that oppose LGBTQIA+ representation rather than antipathy towards LGBTQIA+ folks.
When faced with situations like this, we reiterate our belief that travel is for everyone and that destinations should be confident in their convictions and implement LGBTQIA+ initiatives from a posture of integrity because LGBTQIA+ representation matters to consumers.
In fact, there is a huge gap in advertising that DMOs can fill. According to a 2021 Nielsen survey, only 1% of ads included LGBTQIA+ representation outside of Pride Month. And this is an advertising gap that consumers will reward brands for filling. Community Insights Marketing reported that 71% of LGBTQ community members are more likely to purchase from a brand that does outreach and advertises to the LGBTQ community, and a survey from GLAAD, an LGBTQIA+ media advocacy organization, found that 77% of non-LGBTQ people feel more positively toward brands that include LGBTQIA+ people in their advertisements.
These feelings are especially true for younger consumers. According to consumer insights giant MRI-Simmons, Millennials and Zoomers prioritize destinations, products, and services that embody the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion over those that are not representative or inclusive.
Beyond the business opportunity for DMOs that consumer demand for LGBTQIA+ representation signals, we encourage all our clients to promote LGBTQIA+ stories because representative storytelling is one of Madden’s core values. For us, it’s important that we work with clients that align with our values, especially diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Expanding workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts
While we’re expanding our work with inclusive destinations, we’re also leveling up our company DEI initiatives, and we welcome our partners to do the same. We founded an LGBTQIA+ employee resource group this year, which meets monthly to discuss relevant issues and lead workplace discussions on topics such as Pride planning, pinkwashing, and upcoming staff training. We’ve also been consulting with experts in the LGBTQIA+ travel space to guide how we balance our commitments to travelers and destinations in a climate of LGBTQIA+ travel advisories and legislative battles.
Taking Pride outside
As we get ready to promote events around the country this Pride season, let’s remember the profound opportunity that we have in the tourism industry to connect people to places and one another year-round. To say that there’s never resistance to elevating LGBTQIA+ voices would be disingenuous, but we are firm believers that these difficult conversations are necessary to build empathy and extend our DEI efforts beyond the walls of our individual organizations. As Twain also said, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth.”
There are numerous resources available for those looking to support the LGBTQIA+ community, including resource lists for LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies, crisis support for LGBTQIA+ youth, and LGBTQIA+-focused travel guides.