Traveling with Pride: How the Travel Industry Welcomes LGBTQ+ Travelers

walk the walk

While it’s understandable that travelers don’t want to go somewhere they can’t be themselves, Tanzella points out that many destinations are off-limits as a result. “Many countries that have progressive laws today had very different laws a decade ago,” he says, encouraging travelers to do their research before traveling, but not to dismiss destinations purely based on Politics.

Any legislative change starts at the top, of course, but some governments pose a challenge to the industry. In these cases, companies seeking to advertise directly to gay, lesbian or trans travelers can rarely do so openly. Burn argues that these destinations — which often happily accept bookings from LGBTQ+ travelers — need to put their money where their mouth is. “A lot of them are depending on the money from these travelers, but are they making any progress in changing the laws?” he asks. “It’s not fair to have one rule for citizens and another for visitors.”

Despite this, there has been tentative progress in countries that until recently lagged far behind in terms of equality.

In 2019, the High Court of Botswana ruled in favor of decriminalizing homosexuality, and similar steps have been taken in Seychelles, Mozambique and Trinidad and Tobago in recent years. Change takes time, Cruse says, saying some destinations, like the Bahamas, were hesitant to host a lesbian cruise in the early 1990s. “Once we [the company] hit the market, people got to know us and realized we were no different, things started to change.

If government support is not always a given, then how can the landscape for LGBTQ+ travelers be improved? Mayle thinks it’s not too late for companies looking to make a positive change, but the key is to do so with purpose and authenticity. Tanzella agrees, saying paying lip service is no longer enough to convince travelers that the industry cares. “If you claim to value diversity, but your board looks alike, you’re not moving in the right direction,” he says. “You really have to say what you’re doing.”

Streff says today’s travelers are in the know and that a rainbow sticker in the window isn’t a bad thing but needs to go a lot further. “Diversity is something that also needs to be reflected behind the scenes, so consumers know it’s authentic,” he says.

Authenticity worked for Madrid, at least. Sure, there are plenty of rainbow flags and stickers, but it’s the progress that matters most: it’s the capital of a country where same-sex marriage has been legalized nationwide. National in 2005 – the third country in the world to do so after the Netherlands and Belgium. Maybe it’s proof that if you show the world you’re open-minded, people will come.

Other nations may want to take note: after all, where LGBTQ+ travelers go, others follow. “It happened with Ibiza, and now we see it with Mykonos – suddenly everyone is going there,” says Burn. “It’s almost a question of ‘where will the gays go next?'”

Five cities to watch

Brighton and Hove
It has been almost three years, beleaguered by the pandemic, since the city last hosted a Pride event, but this summer sees the return of the nation’s biggest (and arguably best) pride celebration. A weekend filled with concerts, parades, street parties, cabaret and even a dog show will make up the belated 30th anniversary celebrations. August 5-7.

While attitudes in Serbia remain mixed, laws have improved considerably over the past decade. Openly gay Prime Minister Ana Brnabić took office in 2016, and this year the city will host Europride, the biggest Pride festival on the continent. Previous events in the city have faced intense hostility, so this is a watershed moment for the country’s LGBTQ+ community. September 12-18.

In December, Canada followed countries like Brazil, Germany and Malta in banning the controversial practice of conversion therapy – another sign of the country’s progressive stance on equality. The multicultural city of Toronto is the hub of the country’s LGBTQ+ scene — set to come alive for an eclectic month Pride parties in June.

Malta dominated the ILGA-Europe Rainbow Index for a sixth consecutive year in 2021. The measure analyzes the equality policies of 49 European countries and found that open-minded Malta is ahead of many of its neighbours, with recent changes including a updated policy for LGBTQ+ refugee claims.

The cosmopolitan Australian city takes on the role of host of Global Pride in February 2023. This will be the first time the event has taken place in the Southern Hemisphere, so expect a festive 17-day program of pride marches, beach parties, talks and a First Nations gala concert. February 17 to March 5, 2023.

Published in the April 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveler (UK)

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