Being Yourself as LGBT <5> Understanding Beyond Marketing
“LGBT people make up about 5% of the population. It’s about the same as the ratio of left-handed people and those with an AB blood type. It’s natural that within your customers, there are many who are LGBT.”
Roma Koiwa (41), the board chairperson of the Fukuoka based NPO “Rainbow Soup”, addressed about fifty staff of the Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk Hotel at the end of last march.
On this day, the hotel held its first ever LGBT study meeting. After gaining basic knowledge of LGBT issues, the participants broke into groups and discussed examples of situations that might arise.
- If two people of the same sex ask to reserve a double room.
- If a same-sex couple applies to celebrate an anniversary event.
- If a transgender person wishes to use the public bath.
and so on.
Yu Nakahashi (40), a paralegal involved in establising legal support for LGBT individuals, joined Koiwa as a lecturer at the event. Regarding the first example given, Nakahashi said “You can (legally) change the reservation to twin beds. However, while it seems like only a small action, it sends the message that you have no understanding of LGBT people, and it will keep customers away.” One solution proposed was that it would be better to confirm with the customers the reservation was correct, as is normally done.
The Hilton is a hotel chain that is expanding around the world. In America, the hotel has established a website for LGBT customers, but it has not created such a campaign in Japan. In response to locations such as Tokyo Disney Resort, temples in Kyoto, and other locations across Japan beginning to offer venues for same-sex marriage ceremonies, the marketing manager of the Hilton, Yukako Nishide stated, “At first, we also thought about suggesting a marriage plan. We decided that after learning more about LGBT people we could create the contents of the plan, so we made this study meeting.
The event attracted double the expected number of participants. Knowledge of the event spread and hotels in other prefectures approached to ask about how they too could create such events. “We want to understand the wants and needs of not only LGBT but diverse people of all backgrounds. We would like to convey a supportive rather than imposing attitude.” Nishide said. Instead of an “LGBT Marriage Fair”, cards containing marriage plan information with rainbow design showing sympathy for LGBT people will be displayed casually. LGBT study meeting events will also continue to be held to draw up plans for further guidelines and considerations.
Another Fukuoka City hotel, the Fukuoka Sun Palace, created the “LGBT Happiness Plan” last February aimed at groups supporting LGBT individuals. Reiko Shiraishi (54) the main planner, said “From the start, same-sex wedding ceremonies have been allowed if desired. We thought it’d be better to have an easy to utilize plan in place.”
Recently, this expression has been adopted by business magazines and in other business situations. With the amount of domestic expenditure dwindling due to the effect of the declining birthrate, companies are beginning to turn their attention towards LGBT people. According to a study conducted by the Dentsu Corporation last April, The LGBT market was discovered to be worth roughly 6 trillion yen (About 49 billion USD). The result of the study also indicated that same-sex couples without children are more likely to have more disposable income for things such as eating out, traveling, and clothing than straight couples with children.
Nijiiro Diversity, an Osaka-based NPO that conducts LGBT related workplace training for businesses, stated that while they provided training for one-hundred companies last year, they have already conducted training at over seventy so far this year. Shinki Muraki (40), the representative of the group, welcomes the connection between companies and LGBT people as a good thing as companies that create goods and services will inevitably come under question regarding the welfare programs for their employees.
While some LGBT people may be well off, there are also many who repeatedly change their workplaces or become jobless. There are asexual people, those who cannot or do not want to choose their gender, and various other sexualities. Muraki emphasized, “After building a solid understanding of their current conditions and issues, we would like to work on the issues closely with LGBT people.”
Indeed, before marketing, we must first work on spreading understanding.