Marriott Makes Big Push To Get LGBT Business

A Marriott in D.C. is wrapped with a large banner featuring model Geena Rocero.

A Marriott in D.C. is wrapped with a large banner featuring model Geena Rocero.

With the Supreme Court and a growing number of states giving the OK to same-sex marriages, the hospitality industry is quickly realizing there is money to be made from a segment of the population that had long been underserved. Not to be outdone by smaller hotel chains that openly welcome business from the LGBT community, the folks at Marriott are spending a lot of money to try to win over these consumers.

Marriott’s “Love Travels” campaign launched today, and not in a small way. The huge hotel operator is wrapping several of its hotels with marketing for the campaign, taking out print ads featuring people like openly gay NBA player Jason Collins and transgender model Geena Rocero.

The company has added a “Gay Travel” section to its website, which includes information on wedding-planning. Hilton offers similar information and packages on its site, but the company has never made the advertising push expected from Marriott in the coming months.

“Our goal is really to educate and engage and shift perception of our portfolio brand,” a rep for Marriott International tells USA Today. “We’ve decided to kick off a holistic campaign that really helps celebrate inclusiveness and beautifully illustrates our desire to make people feel at home at our hotels.”

Marriott is certainly not the first chain to court the LGBT market, but most of the hotels that have openly targeted these consumers were smaller, boutique hotel operators like Kimpton, or the upscale offerings from the Preferred Hotel Group, which launched its Preferred Pride program in 2011.

Th VP of Leisure Sales for Preferred tells USA Today that any hotel that doesn’t actively embrace the LGBT community is leaving a pile of cash on the table.

“It’s in the billions and that really has a lot of people paying attention to the LGBT market,” he explains. “I think if you’re not paying attention, you’re definitely missing the boat. For us, it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

There will undoubtedly be backlash to Marriott’s campaign. But as we saw with Nabisco’s recent “Wholesome” family ads, some large companies are realizing there may be money and goodwill to be earned by accepting our differences.