Online gay and lesbian consumers are not only more likely to book travel online than their straight counterparts, they also have more buying power, representing a lucrative niche market, according to Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR). In a recent study of online travelers, Forrester found that 41% of gays and lesbians had booked travel on the Net compared with 28% of straight consumers. The study also found that gay and lesbian Bookers — who account for 3.5% of online travelers and represent more than 5% of all online travel buyers — will research nearly $2.9 billion of travel online in 2001.

“At first glance, all online travel researchers look alike,” said Henry H. Harteveldt, senior analyst at Forrester. “But a closer look at the behavior of gay and lesbian travel Bookers reveals a potential gold mine for travel marketers. According to our findings, compared with their straight counterparts, gay and lesbian Bookers are better educated with higher incomes, are big fans of online shopping and new consumer technologies, and are more willing to pay for premium services. Couple these demographics with a passion for travel, and you have a marketer’s dream audience.”

Online gay and lesbian consumers who research travel on the Net are almost three years younger on average than straight online travel consumers. However, in at least two meaningful ways the two groups are essentially the same: online research/shopping experience and leisure travel spending.

“In order to gain greater awareness among gays and lesbians, travel marketers must learn the nuances of this niche audience, which is just as diverse as the mainstream,” added Harteveldt. “Holding preconceived ideas about the online gay and lesbian traveler will shortchange travel marketers’ success, regardless of whether they are a mainstream brand or one that serves this attractive niche market.”

For the Consumer Technographics® 2000 Online Travel Study, Forrester surveyed more than 9,500 North American households that travel for leisure at least once a year. Data is weighted to represent the online North American population of leisure travelers.