Travel trend forecasting agency Globetrender has published a new report, The Future of Queer Travel, identifying eight trends shaping the future of travel for the LGBTQ+ market. OutThere speaks to the company’s editor, founder and CEO Jenny Southan, about the evolving needs and behaviours of queer travellers globally.
In 2018, annual spending by LGBTQ+ travellers reached an estimated US$218 billion. By 2030, experts predict this figure could reach US$568.5 billion. Why is this happening and how can travel companies and destinations better tap into this growing market?
Jenny (who is, we’re proud to say, also an OutThere contributor) explains: ‘Firstly, queer travellers are more intrepid and hungry for travel than ever before. Secondly, in many cases, they also have more disposable income. And thirdly, the population of people who identify as queer is increasing. In 2021, a landmark UK Census revealed that 6.9% of Gen Zs identified as LGB+ compared with 3.5% of Millennials, and 1.6% of Boomers’.
Further, Jenny says that brands only stand to benefit from catering to the community when they travel. As a queer woman, wife and parent, no one is better suited to tell us why the travel industry, as a whole, needs to acknowledge and cater to the unique circumstances of LGBTQ+ travellers.
‘For the travel industry, this is a clear indication of distinct market opportunities (particularly among people under the age of 45). It is also an urgent call for better understanding and appreciation of this growing and richly varied consumer group’, she says.
Published in June 2023, Globetrender’s Future of Queer Travel forecast identifies ‘Queer Family Travel’, ‘Limelight Gaycations’, ‘Polydays’ (for those in polyamorous relationships) and ‘Pride Power’ as some of the emerging trends within the LGBTQ+ travel market segment.
It also highlights ‘Gay-I Interfaces’, which refers to how machine-led interactions at border control and hotel check-in can replace interactions with people, which can induce anxiety in queer travellers. ‘This is a milestone report for the travel industry and up until now, these trends hadn’t been identified’, says Jenny. ‘Many of them are also very new shifts and opportunities’.
Jenny explains that a big reason Globetrender chose Queer Family Travel as its number-one trend is that ‘more and more rainbow families are emerging’. In 2019, there were almost quarter of a million same-sex families in the UK, an increase of 40% since 2015.
Jenny says: ‘In this book [the authors] highlight some of the unique challenges we face when travelling as queer parents, such as how we are ‘outed’ all the time by cries of “Mummy, Mama” or “Daddy, Papa”. What this means is that queer families need to be far more discerning and thoughtful about where they visit to ensure they won’t encounter homophobia’.
A trend that might take travel marketers by surprise is ‘Rainbow Rebellions’, which corresponds to the way some defiant queer travellers visit destinations in spite of the fact they have anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
Jenny says: ‘In terms of progress for LGBTQ+ human rights, there are steps forward and steps backwards. Gay marriage is legal in 34 countries (up from just one in 2001) but homosexuality is still illegal in 67 countries. In 2023, the president of Uganda signed one of the world’s toughest anti-LGBTQ+ laws, but at the same time, Latvia welcomed the modern world’s first openly gay president’.
As for why marketers have previously been slow to act on these trends, Jenny believes it’s down to a lack of diversity and inclusivity at the decision-making level. She says: ‘I think there is a combination of reasons that LGBTQ+ people are being let down by the majority of destination marketers and travel brands, but the most obvious one is that they are being run by heterosexual, cisgender people with a heteronormative view of the world’.
She adds: ‘You can see this in the imagery they use in their marketing campaigns and on their websites – there is often very little representation. Unless these decision-makers actively educate themselves on diversity and inclusivity and bring on LGBTQ+ employees, advisors and business leaders, they will continue to fail to recognise the significance of this growing market and react appropriately’.
In a wider sense, we all stand to benefit from greater inclusivity and a better understanding of our world as it exists. An occasion to immerse ourselves in the experience of travel can no longer be exclusive and accessible to only a privileged few. ‘At Globetrender, we are optimists. We strongly believe in travel as the ultimate expression of freedom, and a unifying force that brings people closer together’, says Jenny. OutThere couldn’t agree more.