LGBTQ+ Italian Tour Operators Coming Out
The first and only Italian LGBTQ+ tour operator is coming out of its 2 most difficult years with a new corporate image and brand-new tours, ready to welcome the return of the US market.
It has been 15 years since Alessio Virgili, CEO, and Andrea Cosimi, COO, of Sonders & Beach, founded the brand Quiiky Viaggi, a tour operator engaged exclusively in LGBTQ + tourism. It was the dawn of this market in Italy, and the 2 entrepreneurs realized that they had some difficulty in finding tailor-made tourism products for this target group.
One can imagine the obstacles in creating a brand of this type – the search for suitable accommodation, destinations with dedicated hospitality, and the need for appropriate training of human resources.
eTN: How did Quiiky overcome the problem?
Andrea Cosimi: Quiiky was born with the actual construction of the product through the search for international correspondents specializing in the target through training for travel agencies to which a catalog with unpublished products was proposed for the first time.
eTN: What was the market reaction to the unpublished tourism products?
Andrea: Many were those who approached Quiiky at trade fairs, and over time, trust has grown with a distribution that now counts on 3,000 travel agencies that have come into contact with the operator, of which at least 500 are loyal thanks to the many meetings organized together to LGBTQ+ friendly tourism organizations.
eTN: And the strategy core?
Andrea: The biggest step taken by Quiiky has given Italy a different image in the world with the creation of the “Untold History Tours” – trips to Italy that tells the story of LGBTQ+ culture recognizable in the richness of Italian cultural heritage; tours that focus on the countless historical testimonies of great artists that have always been kept hidden. The media around the world reported it from the New York Times to the BBC.
This popularity has allowed the offer for the domestic market to equate to the international one by creating tailor-made itineraries and experiences to trace the LGBTQ+ cultural roots through destinations, works of art, iconic characters, encounters with the local LGBTQ+ community.
Alessio Virgili: Today, the long tail of the tourist market that has seen the birth of a new niche market has undergone an enrichment and expansion – the needs and habits of this specific traveler are increasingly multifaceted, also thanks to the acquisition of new rights that are leading to the growth of married couples and with children.
eTN: Who patronizes this market?
Andrea: LGBTQ+ tourism emerges for singles, for rainbow families, for honeymoons, for sportsmen, and, of course, for LGBTQ+ events. A mutation was frozen in 2 difficult years, in which Quiiky was strengthened thanks to a call for support from Finlombarda and the Milan Chamber of Commerce, which allowed him an investment of over 150,000 euros in promotion and marketing campaigns, as well as in the digital development of the quiiky.com portal.
eTN: Quiiky’s testimonial since its birth, according to Alessandro Cecchi Paone, journalist, university teacher, and science communicator, commented on Quiiky’s anniversary.
Alessandro Cecchi Paone: From the very first moment, Sonders & Beach had my support, and this is why I am a Quiiky ambassador, for the courage that Alessio Virgili and Andrea Cosimi had in investing in this country that is truly backward compared to others, where LGBTQ+ tour operating is completely normal and not an exception.
LGBTQ+ tourism combines the recognition of dignity and rights with a business opportunity – in Italy, unfortunately, still partially unexpressed.
eTN: 2022 is an important birthday for Quiiky.
Giovanna Ceccherini (Quiiky Brand Manager): 2022 looks like the year of the restart for Quiiky. We are witnessing a concrete recovery of incoming, in particular from the American LGBTQ+ market. The booking requests indicate a renewed interest in group travel for the summer months.
eTN: Certainly the loosening of the regulations for the containment of the pandemic, which is expected for the spring-summer, instills confidence in tourists.
Giovanna: The recovery of the cruise sector dedicated to the target is also generating requests for very interesting ground services.
Quiiky this year is focusing its investments on the North American market to raise awareness of destination Italy, in the year in which Milan will be the seat of the IGLTA International Convention, the largest world event in the sector, expected for many years. For this purpose Quiiky has created gay-oriented group tours of Sicily, of the Amalfi Coast combined with Naples and Pompeii, of Milan, Venice, Florence, and one dedicated to the places of the cult film.