LGBTQ+ travel: where we are, and where we’re headed
To one extent or another, who we are as people is where we’ve been as travellers. And that’s the same for everyone. It’s easy to want to see the whole world, from eating your way through the backstreets of Bangkok to exploring the salt flats of the Atacama desert. But while many of us are bursting at the seams with wanderlust, it is important that we all understand that some travellers face challenges others don’t, from outright discrimination to unconscious bias. Among them are those identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit, androgynous or asexual – we abbreviate this into LGBTQ+, LGBT+ or LGBT. Similarly, travellers of colour, those differently-abled, women, and the elderly, to name a few, also face difficulties.
Research into the LGBTQ+ market has shown that US-based LGBTQ+ travellers spent over $63 billion on travel in 2018 alone, and countries like Brazil ($27 billion) and the UK ($12 billion) add overwhelmingly more value to what was once considered a niche segment. In short: queer holidaymakers are an economic force, and a significant and valuable part of the travelling audience. Combined, global LGBTQ+ travellers contribute more to the industry than some of the world’s top countries.
Some destinations appeal to diverse travellers exceedingly well, creating bespoke advertising campaigns, investing in sensitivity training, endorsing events such as Pride festivals for the community, and working closely with the local LGBTQ+ community and organisations. And there is no shortage of ‘gay’ hotspots, from Mykonos to Tel Aviv and Sydney to San Francisco. These destinations and the people in them invest their efforts into making their destination, or the place that they live in, an open and welcoming place for all, going the extra mile to specifically embrace LGBTQ+ travellers.
But on the other side of the coin, there are some destinations that aren’t as welcoming and it is important that we call them out. There are also the travellers themselves, many of whom might feel insecure and uncertain about visiting more traditional or conservative destinations that can’t demonstrate a track record of being welcoming and LGBTQ-friendly, despite members of the community wanting to experience those places in the way their heterosexual counterparts can.
At OutThere, we believe in the right of each individual to choose whatever part of the world they’d like to explore next. To help you have a safe and enjoyable journey (you know, the kind you deserve!), it’s advisable to refer to the official, LGBTQ-specific advice provided by the foreign ministry of the country you reside in. British travellers can find information on the website of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, while US-Americans can turn to the State Department for all they need to know and up-to-the-minute information. On our boundless travel page, we’ve also put together a list of recommendations to bear in mind before you jet off to your next adventure.
All this said, there’s a lot to look forward to (and celebrate) in the world of LGBTQ+ travel: more and more hospitality brands and tour operators work on creating specific experiences and added-value packages for the community. Destination weddings represent a rapidly growing trend (it seems that now that many of us can tie the knot, there’s an appetite to do so in a big way!). And for the first time, modern families can find hotels and destinations that directly address them, and promise to create a carefree stay filled with plenty of fun for the little ones.
Overall, we’d argue the sector itself is diversifying for the better. Not only are there now more queer experiences than ever before (gay cruising has taken on a whole new meaning), but the LGBTQ+ community is also more represented in travel overall, which helps to unlock destinations and experiences that would’ve been off-limits as little as twenty years ago.
At OutThere, we like to think of LGBTQ+ travel simply as travel. While we don’t all come from the same place, we all share in the desire to venture out and experience our magical world in all its glory.
Whether your aim is to get married in Costa Rica, rave in Berlin or cage-dive with a great white shark off the coast of South Africa (to each their own, right?), any transformative travel experience will become a part of who you are. Conversely, each journey is an opportunity to leave a trace of yourself, and all that makes you who you are, in a faraway land. And there’s never been a better time to do so.