January 26, 2012 | by David Placher
Vacation homework

Brian Goldthrope (Blade photo by Michael Key)

For some, vacation planning can be stressful and complicated because of budget constraints and time limitations. One bad decision can lead to a disastrous vacation with money and time wasted.

There’s added stress for LGBT travelers, as it’s sometimes tough to gauge which destinations are accommodating, comfortable and accepting.

Brian Goldthorpe, chief communications officer for OffTo, a company that offers special deals on customized LGBT vacations, says his business helps gay travelers find welcoming destinations.

“We pride ourselves on only working with gay-friendly hotels and we only promote places that are gay friendly,” Goldthorpe says. “We have certain standards and as of right now, only 6,000 hotels worldwide meet those standards. Our selection process takes a lot of unnecessary stress off someone from the LGBT community worrying about whether the hotel or place they selected is gay friendly.”

OffTo.com was launched Nov. 1, and the site offers new vacation packages each Tuesday.

“We currently have a same-sex wedding package for New Hampshire. We also have a vacation package for Las Vegas and Orlando. We try to introduce a new vacation place every week,” Goldthorpe says. “We think about the future and what is needed for the LGBT community now, and gay wedding vacation packages are needed.”

Goldthorpe also says that gay-friendly vacations do not necessarily mean vacations that are gay themed and says his company provides vacation packages on a diverse and wide scale, packages that include city tours, art shows, cultural events and live entertainment.

Goldthorpe recognizes that the competition for LGBT business can be fierce, with each travel agency trying to provide a discounted travel destination. However, Goldthorpe notes, “We stand out because we know what the LGBT community wants and we specialize in the LGBT community. Our site is about illustrating how committed we are about serving the needs of the gay community. They want to go someplace and not worry about being treated differently. That is what sets us apart from the others. We help bridge the gap.”

Community Marketing, Inc., a company that specializes in LGBT marketing, conducted a survey in 2009 and found that the annual economic impact of LGBT travelers is approximately $63 billion in the U.S. alone. The study also found that for gay men and women, the average household income is $81,500 per year, almost 80 percent above the average U.S. household income of $46,326.

Goldthorpe believes that more disposable income leads to more travel. However, he cautions that just because the gay community has a higher rate of disposable income, it does not mean gay travelers are spendthrifts.

“We bundle discounted vacation packages to a specific community of travelers.  We know everyone is watching their budgets and that the LBGT community doesn’t want to pay more for a friendly venue just because they happen to belong to the LBGT community.”

The idea for OffTo was developed by Dennis Gaveenzi and the company is located in Philadelphia. Its current customer base is the Northeastern region, with plans to expand to the Midwest and eventually reaching the West Coast. OffTo will also be offering daytrip packages soon.

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