With more than $76.5 billion in expenditures, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) segment is a booming travel market. Predicted to increase by more than $20 billion over the next five years, the GLBT market provides strong opportunities for companies to capture a new audience.

"The GLBT community has a greater willingness to spend their dollars on travel than most mainstream consumers," said Chris Haack, analyst for Mintel. "There is a cultural affinity that tends to insulate it from the shocks that affect the general traveler. Whether communicating with GLBT singles, couples or families, industry players simply need to be aware of each group's specific needs."

The GLBT audience is also seen as more willing to travel in general. According to Mintel's exclusive research, more than 80 percent of GLBT travelers had current passports, compared to roughly 20 percent of mainstream consumers. The audience is also spending more money on traveling, with more than half of respondents who used online travel agents spending from $1,000 to $5,000 planning trips. Peak travel months for GLBT travelers are in the fall, where peak travel times for mainstream travelers are in the summer. Because fewer GLBTs have children, relative to the mainstream, they are able to travel at more off-peak times.

Some companies are already making strong progress within the GLBT community. Travel giants Orbitz and Travelocity have both created dedicated microsites for GLBT-friendly travel packages and destinations. Starwood's W Hotel chain has also committed resources to attract GLBT consumers, recently promoting a Queer Eye package across a variety of gay media channels. In addition, MBNA has launched a co-branded credit card with Olivia, one of the world's largest lesbian lifestyle companies.

More direct mail campaigns and advertisements that target the GLBT audience are also predicted to surface, according to Mintel Comperemedia, a competitive intelligence service that analyzes direct mail and print media. Mintel Comperemedia has seen several campaigns emerge that focus on GLBT-focused travel outings, such as the ROmanCE VOYAGES, a cruise line that works with American Express Travel Services representatives.

"GLBT travelers present a great new avenue for companies to tap into," said Haack. "More companies in general are starting to put bigger dollars against marketing efforts in the GLBT community. Companies that are willing to invest the resources have a great chance of seeing a strong return on their investment with this audience."