As a lesbian with wanderlust, there are special considerations I must make when choosing destinations and accommodations. In some cities/countries LGBT folks might be okay while walking with a partner hand-in-hand; in other locales, you might get stares or funny looks; in other destinations you might face blatant discrimination when, as a same-sex couple, you book one bed in a hotel room. These embarrassing – and potentially dangerous – situations can make or break a vacation.
Holidays are for relaxing and we all want to travel as easily and safely as possible. But, for LGBT travelers, the world is often a dangerous place.
According to UCityGuides, the 10 gayest cities in the world are New York City, San Francisco, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, London, Paris, Los Angeles and Miami. These cities are welcoming to LGBT people and locations LGBT travelers can find things to do and go not only in gay-exclusive bars and lodgings, but everywhere.
Many private travel businesses like Pink Iceland, New Zealand Awaits and Argentina’s BAGay offer LGBT-specific tourism assistance worldwide. Additionally, London’s official city tourism organization, Visit London has LGBT-specific offerings, as does Las Vegas and so many other cities’ tourism boards around the globe. Even Virginia, long considered a “battleground” state for LGBT rights, recently launched a state-wide LGBT tourism campaign. For those wanting LGBT-specific travel guidance, Damron Company publishes guides geared to LGBT travelers.
Meanwhile, the independent Purple Roofs site provides information about small, ‘family owned’ and gay friendly accommodations. Many of these listings are places you’d have difficulty finding out about anywhere else.
Mainstream travel businesses such as American Airlines, Travelocity and Orbitz have longstanding services catering to LGBT travelers. And, dedicated to connecting and educating LGBT travelers and the businesses that welcome and support us, the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association acts as the world’s leading global travel network.
Community Markets & Insights’ 20th Annual LGBT Travel Survey results reveal some interesting statistics about LGBT travel:
According to the report, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports “the travel and tourism industry in the United States generated more than U.S. $1.5 trillion in economic output in 2014. Based on this data and CMI sample demographics, we estimate that the annual economic impact of LGBT travelers is over US $75 billion per year in the U.S. alone, not including the value of international inbound LGBT travel.”
Not surprisingly, New York is, once again, the most popular LGBT destination across all categories, followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Chicago, which are tightly grouped in 2nd place. This year’s ranking saw increases for Los Angeles as well as increases in Florida travel, with Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando; all being top-10 destinations. For the first time Rehoboth Beach, DE and Nashville, TN entered the survey’s top-20 destinations, which reflects an overall trend for a greater number and diversity of destinations involved in LGBT outreach.
Including LGBT-specific activities while on vacation is not diminishing among LGBT Millennials. 60% of LGBT Millennials indicated having visited a gay bar while on vacation in the past year, and 56% visited an LGBT neighborhood while on vacation. These percentages were equal to or better than Generation X and Baby Boomer LGBTs. Attending an LGBT Pride event while on vacation was especially popular among Millennials, particularly when compared to Baby Boomers.
For the first time, the survey tested questions on shared economy accommodations. The report indicated that lesbians (21%) were more likely than gay men (17%) to have actually booked via a rental-by-owner or shared economy website in the past year such as Airbnb or HomeAway. LGBTs primarily book shared economy accommodations for cheaper rates (59%) and to be in a specific neighborhood (56%). 20% of LGBTs who booked shared economy rooms in the past year did it just because they were curious. Looking to the future, only 9% of lesbians and 4% of gay men said that rental-by-owner or shared economy websites were their preferred way of booking accommodations. Additionally, Millennials are far more likely to use public transportation and Uber than Baby Boomers while traveling. Baby Boomers are more likely to rent cars. Traditional taxi use was fairly even across all generations.
Something I didn’t find in the 2015 survey that was in CMI’s 2014 survey, were results about Destination Safety and LGBT Discrimination. The 2014 survey concluded that LGBT travelers strongly prefer to travel to destinations they consider safe and do not have laws that discriminate against LGBT residents and travelers. In 2014, merely 11% of respondent indicated a willingness to travel to a country that has laws against LGBT people.
Additionally, the 2014 survey had results for regional reputation: “Following general travel safety, respondents were asked about perceived safety in specific countries. Many of these countries have significant general population tourism initiatives, but are located in parts of the world that are not always perceived as LGBT-friendly. Russia scored the lowest among all counties tested. Other counties, while not explicitly anti-LGBT, suffer from negative perceptions about their regions.”
In 2015, OutTraveler published “The 10 Places LGBT Travelers Should Never Visit,” which included Nigeria, where same-sex couples can face many years in prison, Zimbabwe, where an LGBT individual can be beheaded for the offense of homosexuality, and Russia, where Pride parades are banned, LGBT “propaganda” is illegal, transgender individuals are not allowed to drive, and LGBT people are often physically assaulted in in the streets. This type of intelligence is invaluable, exactly the type of vacation planning information heterosexual folks never have to think about.
And this month, October 2016, a new report has revealed that more than one in three (37%) LGBT travelers have experienced some form of discrimination whilst on holiday, with 6% experiencing a threat of physical violence due to their sexuality.
PinkNews summed up the findings: “The report also highlighted that sexuality had a major influence on where LGBT Brits traveled, with two thirds (63%) refusing to travel somewhere that had an unwelcoming attitude towards the LGBT community. A quarter (23%) of LGBT travelers admitted changing the way they act and try to camouflage their sexuality when on holiday. Most alarmingly, an overwhelming 80% said that the travel industry don’t do enough to inform the LGBT community about local laws prior to departure. The research was carried out for Virgin Holidays, which has launched a campaign with Stonewall on the issue.”
As LGBT people we must consider that our very existence is illegal in some places and our love is punishable by death in others. This greatly influences our movement – and lack thereof – in and around the world.
LGBT travel needs to be safe, but please remember to have fun!