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Mexico City told that diversity and inclusion makes for ‘smart business’

Mexico City told that diversity and inclusion makes for ‘smart business’

LGBT Confex CEO Ruben Sandoval speaks at the opening of the event in Mexico City

Businesses and travel industry representatives heard more about the importance of embracing diversity and inclusion in their policies and marketing at this year’s LGBT Confex, which drew to a close in Mexico City today.

LGBT Confex has been running for the past five years. It has previously taken place in tourist resort towns and cities such as Puerto Vallarta. This sixth outing is the first time it has taken place in the country’s capital, Mexico City.

The two-day event featured an exhibition space, workshops and speakers. Today’s event featured persuasive presentations by two US-based LGBT travel experts: Ed Salvato, Editor-in-Chief of ManAboutWorld and IGLTA board representive; and Tom Roth, of San Francisco-based Community Marketing.

Salvato stressed the importance of appealing across LGBTI communities, and not just targeting gay men – pointing out that travel for many trans people can prove stressful if they are worried about passport gender discrepancies or how they might be treated abroad.

For Salvato, promoting tourism to the LGBT market was simply ‘smart business’: Not only is the right thing to do, but it demonstrates that a company is progressive and accepting – both values that LGBTI consumers show loyalty towards.

He said LGBTI people are a ‘small group that punches above its weight’, as many gay people are less likely to have kids and are known to travel twice as much as their heterosexual counterparts.

They also prioritize safety when travelling, and unlike some parts of the world that have experienced terrorist atrocities, Mexico is actually seen by some as relatively safe.

Salvato’s message was echoed by Roth. His organization, Community Marketing, takes regular surveys of LGBTI communities and has found that 79% of LGBT people have a passport in the US, compared with just 25% of the general US population.

Of those 79%, 51% said they had used their passport in the last year.

Roth also highlighted growing trends, such as lesbians with kids wanting family holidays in LGBTI-friendly destinations, and gay grandparents (who may have previously been in heterosexual relationships) who want to take their grandkids to resorts such as those run by Disney.

He said just over 50% of millennial gay men and lesbians have expressed a desire to have kids some day.

The marriage effect

Mexico, which is predominantly Catholic, is slowly coming around to the idea of embracing LGBTI consumers and employees. The legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide earlier this year has helped to change attitudes – even if the church and many of its members still strongly opposes such unions.

Although multinational corporations generally understand the benefits of fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace – and promoting the fact to their customers – work still needs to be done in getting the message through to more small and medium sized businesses.

However, the message does seem to be beginning to trickle down. At the LGBT Confex exhibition space, one of the smaller exhibitors, Cargo Rechy, echoed Salvato’s notion that marketing to the LGBT community is smart business.

‘Gay couples are less likely to have kids and more likely to have pets – we don’t care about someone’s sexual orientation,’ said Hiram Alfonso Rechy Muñoz, who runs the business with his wife. The company specializes in importing and exporting goods – including pets.

Other exhibitors tended towards the travel and boutique hotel market, alongside some of those larger corporates such as PepsiCo, Scotiabank and AT&T (who sponsored the event).

AT&T sponsored LGBT Confex in Mexico City
AT&T sponsored LGBT Confex in Mexico City

After his talk, Salvato agreed that corporates were leading when it comes to promoting LGBTI inclusion, with the support of the local tourism agency.

‘The leading global brands have lead the effort. However there are many businesses in Mexico City that are interested in the LGBT segment. This includes the Mexican Tourism Board, which has been working very hard to promote this.

‘The country is conservative in many areas outside of Mexico City. But the city itself comprises 9 million people. So the efforts by Mexico City Tourism have been important in leading the entire country.

‘But I would say it’s still in its infancy. They’re not interested in forcing companies to welcome the segment. Rather they’re interested in informing, educating and growing in an organic and grass roots way the overall effort of the hospitality and tourism segment towards the inbound LGBT travel segment.’

It’s not surprising that the tourism industry is the first to be among the first to be taking the LGBT market. After remittance (the money Mexicans living abroad send home to families) and petroleum, tourism is Mexico’s third biggest source of income.

CEO of LGBT Confex, Ruben Sandoval, said he was pleased and excited to bring LGBT Confex to Mexico City for the first time: ‘From our inception seven years ago to today, we can clearly see the strong participation of private companies and the different government institutions strongly promoting inclusion in general and strengthening the LGBT industry in Mexico.’