Have you used OutofOffice.com yet for your vacations? While this particular travel site is not exclusively for the LGBT community, it definitely tries to target and appeal to the gay market, while focusing on luxury and higher end vacations.
OutofOffice.com looks at travel destinations around the globe and identifies the spots that are LGBT friendly. The company does this by working with the locals directly, including the hotels themselves and local charities and organizations. The goal is to ensure that the traveler is not put in an unfriendly environment and stems from a negative experience the creator of the company had himself.
Darren Burn, who launched the site earlier this year remembers, how even though he researched a hotel extensively he was denied a room in Egypt. He explains: “That shouldn’t have happened. I know there are places where it is technically illegal to be gay but fine to go there. In the Maldives it is punishable by death under Sharia law to be gay but if you go to a five-star luxury resort on honeymoon you are perfectly welcome.”
Burn is attempting to fill a hole left by other travel sites that make its recommendations based on erroneous information, which can potentially have serious ramifications for an LGBT traveler. He explains that: “There’s a phrase, ‘pink washing’, where someone takes an existing product and adds an image of a gay person on it and that’s it. The LGBT market isn’t necessarily looking for anything different but they are looking to know you understand them. We’ve mystery-shopped a lot of travel companies over the last nine months and they’re giving out the wrong advice. You don’t want to send someone to a country where it’s illegal to be gay with the wrong information.”
According to Burn, it’s not just LGBT who are using OutofOffice.com. In fact, approximately a third of users are straight. Burn explains this phenomenon: “Everything we do from the ground up is LGBT-friendly and by default that usually means it’s straight-friendly. We’ve been embraced by a wider market because we’re inclusive. Other travel companies are scared to break the mold.”
And Burn is bullish about his company’s future. He hopes to double his company’s sales staff by the end of 2017, and is considering opening an office in the U.S. This simply makes good sense as Burn sees the potential: “A higher percentage of LGBT people in America have a passport than the wider market, and 23 percent more disposable income, which goes on things like travel.” His company’s business is growing every month; Burn clearly wants this trend to continue: “The next year or two are about honing the business model and achieving the highest possible margins on the right products for the target audience. In early 2018 we want to look at a bunch of venture capitalists to bring in the ability to scale in a big way.”