Gay tourists turned off by sexy advertising

Amy Bourke February 13, 2007
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Recently gay holidaymakers have been lured to Britain using posters of half-dressed men, Kylie Minogue and drag queens.

But now VisitBritain, the country’s official tourism agency, is having to tone down its advertising approach.

Research using focus groups in the USA, France and Germany found that potential visitors were being turned off by its cheesy, stereotypical and overtly sexual campaigns, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The research found that holidaymakers were more likely to visit the Chelsea Flower Show, or the famous Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, than the UK’s gay scene.

Members of the focus groups thought the adverts designed to attract them to Britain were overly preoccupied with gay-friendly urban areas like Brighton and Manchester, when they were more interested in beauty spots like the Lake District.

One said: “I live in New York City – I get enough gay events here,” reports the Telegraph.

American volunteers at focus groups in Chicago, New York and San Francisco especially took offence at the suggestion they might be looking for a “sex vacation.”

VisitBritain say that as a result, their old advertising will be phased out, and that new material will feature same-sex couples enjoying country walks.

The change of tactic was welcomed by Robert Harkavy, the managing director and founder of Respect Holidays.

“The gay market, especially relating to travel, has come of age. It is has outgrown unsubtle, in-your-face advertising,” he told

“Over the past ten years, Respect Holiday’s adverts have certainly matured from being very cheeky and full of innuendo to subtler and more sophisticated, but still undeniably gay.

“I think it is appropriate for VisitBritain to follow suit, as long as they do not make their adverts less inclusive of lesbians and gays. If they are leave out the gay element, they will lose out on business.”

VisitBritain’s new ad campaigns may include traditional British images such Buckingham Palace guards dressed in the rainbow colours of the Gay Pride movement.

The research concluded: “Gays and lesbians are not going to Britain because they might see other gays and lesbians; their motivations and triggers are similar to those of other travellers.

“They consider Britain a sophisticated, wordly destination – and they want to see it portrayed as such. They do not want to see it presented in a cheesy way.”

Getting the advertising right is important to VisitBritain after previous research showed that gay and lesbian communities have a higher than average income and are more likely to go on holiday.

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