How Puerto Vallarta Puts a Big Focus on LGBTQ+ Travelers

Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board share how they support LGBTQ+ travelers.

August 24, 2022

At Sojern, we’re focused on helping destination marketers reach the right travelers through digital marketing, including LGBTQ+ travelers. Our destination partner Luis Villasenor, managing director for the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board, joined us for a Q&A to share the great ways his team supports LGBTQ+ travelers coming to the destination. We learned about what they've done to create an inclusive community and how they think about marketing.

Why is Puerto Vallarta the expert? Puerto Vallarta is known as the friendliest city in the world. For 60 years, they've promoted Puerto Vallarta as an inclusive community that welcomes all people. This initiative has flourished under the leadership of Luis and the Puerto Vallarta team. Puerto Vallarta is known as an unforgettable LGBTQ+ location to check out in Mexico.


How did you get into this role and what gets you excited about your job every day?

The members of our team are largely from the local community, so they have a deep connection to Puerto Vallarta and want to share what makes this destination great. It’s what really makes the difference for all the visitors who come to Puerto Vallarta. The feeling of belonging is a top priority for us. For me, it's a great honor to represent Puerto Vallarta, internationally and to different types of travelers. I've been working for the tourism board since 2007, and it’s so exciting for me to talk about why travelers should come to my city and to make people fall in love with it.

How did Puerto Vallarta reach out to the LGBTQ+ community? Why is this group important to your destination?

Initially, we were not promoting the LGBTQ+ business because we relied on word of mouth. But since 2013, we have been promoting the destination as LGBTQ+ friendly. Beyond driving revenue, it's also about generating better work environments and helping promote good relationships. It's about leading with respect and inclusion. We welcome all travelers that respect our culture and traditions. 

We have the biggest American community in the world, outside the States, around 40,000 expats living in the region. A part of that community was the LGBTQ+ community. When they were here, they started looking for places to socialize. This also encouraged and helped local people to feel more free about it and to not to feel pressure about the religion or the local community, because Puerto Vallarta still remains a small community with 300,000 people. 

We continue to foster inclusion with our LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce. We have the most successful Pride in the country, Vallarta Pride, and this year was the 10th celebration. Pride month is June, but here, when we started trying to get the Pride business, we didn't want to compete with top destinations in the States. So we aligned our Pride celebration to International Day Against Discrimination on May 17, which is why we’ve been very successful. We welcome around 15,000 visitors in that week representing 20% of occupancy for the city, and $300,000 in lodging taxes over the week.

Our mayor (in 2017) was the first mayor in the country to be part of the parade and he also married the first gay couple. Now we have over 100 different gay-oriented businesses and many hotels are part of the community as well. 

What are you doing to accommodate LGBTQ travelers? What are you doing to make it appealing for them to travel there? How are you telling them about your inclusive community?

As a now established LGBTQ+ welcoming destination, in terms of tourism, we started to offer training sessions against discrimination. We educate all the suppliers about being respectful, because it's the law. We are also members of different associations. We were the first city in Mexico to be part of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (they do advocacy work), the Human Rights Watch, and to participate in the WorldPride 2014 in Toronto. 

We are the only beach destination in Latin America with a gayborhood (a section of town that is very gay friendly) right in downtown. It's now the most expensive square meter in the country, and we see more and more business coming to the gayborhood. They're selling the apartments like tortillas and building more. We see more hotels and other partners participate in Pride because they want to welcome the LGBTQ+ community. They are frequent travelers to the destination. They not only come here once, they come three times, and they spend more than an average couple.

What are you thinking about for your marketing program overall? What's a priority for you right now? And let’s also talk a little bit about how you're reaching gay travelers.

We have done web, radio, podcasts, Facebook & Instagram, work with specialized media  partners, and platforms that are focused on the LGBTQ+ market. We also get on the road doing press trips and attending events and expos. 

Most of our overall investment is going to digital. Digital is a very high priority because it's so easy to measure. Sojern is a very important partner. We take advantage of your great data. I believe that Sojern could be a great partner for other destinations. For example, Mexico, Puebla, Cuernavaca, they have all approached us to see what Puerto Vallarta is doing to get so much LBGTQ+ business, and Sojern has helped us to do that. Digital marketing is a great way to find the right audience and it remains the most important channel. 

Right now, for Visit Puerto Vallarta’s campaigns, we are focused on targeting people with travel intent to Puerto Vallarta or to other beach competitors or competitors in general. The campaign also uses contextual keywords to reach the LGBTQ+ audience. Keyword Contextual Targeting is a method of advertising to reach this community, while being respectful of personally identifiable information (private information). Has this worked for you? 

Without question, the keywords help because people are doing their research on the destination and looking for gay hotels. Targeting based on keywords helps us get our message in front of those travelers. This is why digital can be the best way to reach these travelers. When you search digitally, it's private, so it’s a great channel for the LGBTQ+ community to do their research. 

We appreciate the insights from Luis and we’re proud to be a company that creates a safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community for people around the world. 

Looking to activate campaigns to reach LGBTQ+ travelers? Connect today

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