Virgin targets the pink traveller

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The Independent Online

Virgin Atlantic is targeting gays and lesbians in a new marketing drive in the United States aimed at tapping into the lucrative homosexual travel market.

Estimates vary, but some claim that homosexuals account for between five and 10 per cent of the American population. As a niche player, Virgin hopes to gain market share by attacking a series of market segments, like gay travellers, which probably account for about 12.5 million Americans. The airline is believed to be the first to actively target gay travellers.

The adverts, to appear in two glossy US magazines, Advocate and Out, feature two businessmen in suits looking slightly away from each other. "They are not holding hands or wearing dresses, they're just two businessmen in an advert that appears in a gay publication," said David Tait, Executive Vice-President of Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Virgin says the marketing drive is a result of increasing segmentation in the travel trade. "We go after golfers, fly-fishermen, and lawyers - its just another market segment for us. We do not see this as a major policy statement on the part of the company. They just constitute a wealthy and significant part of the travel trade," Mr Tait said.

The company already tackles the gay dollar through its Virgin Vacations subsidiary. A brochure supplement is distributed to affiliates to the International Gay Travel Association.

John Jackson, spokesman for the gay rights group Outrage! said he agreed with Mr Tait's assessment of the marketplace. "Its just sensible marketing. I think business now realises that they've got to be more aware of the so-called 'pink pound'. Gay people have a relatively high disposable income so it's just a good business strategy to target them."