Africa Travel Week
LGBTQ+ Travel

Embracing LGBTQ+ travel

Jean Carmela Lim explores ways how travel and luxury brands can embrace the rise of LGBTQ+ travel.

One of the fastest growing tourism sectors is LGBTQ+ travel. According to American market researcher Forrester, the LGBTQ+ market is worth £6 billion in the United Kingdom, and USD 85 billion in the United States. The rapid increase of LGBTQ+ travel will only benefit travel and luxury brands, so it is essential to take care and get buy-in from this clientele.

Here are five ways travel brands can better cater to this growing market that spends 33 percent more on travel than non- LGBTQ+ travellers.

Research from the UNWTO (United Nations World Travel Organisation) has shown that the LGBTQ+ market is growing rapidly and that by 2030, there will be 180 million LGBTQ+ travellers worldwide. Also, a staggering 31 percent of Centennials (those born after 1995), identify as LGBTQ+.

Luxury travel brands should welcome and embrace this growth because 43 percent of over-40 gay and lesbian travellers, and 63 percent of their younger counterparts tend to prefer custom-made holidays booked through a travel agency.

In addition, LGBTQ+ travellers in general have a relatively high spending power. LGBTQ+ couples often have a dual and above average income with no children. Because school holidays (or holidays in general) does not affect their travel decision, LGBTQ+ couples are able to travel more often, spend more on travel, and still travel on off-season. (The LGBT market travels an average of 4-6 times annually).

Having said the above, do keep in mind that LGBTQ+ family travel is also on the rise. The growth of equal rights for LGBTQ+ also means that the options for LGBTQ+ to either become parents, or to expand their families is increasing. Therefore, both family-friendliness and LGBT-friendliness are a requirement for this growing sector.

Travel advisors and agents are advised to keep abreast of the latest news that affect LGBTQ+ travel. For instance, Bermuda, a popular honeymoon destination (a quick 90-minute non-stop flight from New York, and seven hours from London, Gatwick), has overturned a gay marriage ban that was signed into law in 2018.

This is good news for British-American cruise operator Carnival Corp., which is registered in Bermuda. For the period that Bermuda’s government reversed the legalisation of same-sex marriage, it created a significant issue for Carnival Corp. The ban meant that Carnival’s subsidiaries, Cunard and P&O Cruises couldn’t conduct same-sex marriages regardless of where the ships are in the world.

Being aware of governments that make history and legalise same-sex marriage will help as these countries will unsurprisingly see an increase in LGBTQ+ tourism.

For example, with same-sex marriage being legal in countries such as Mexico, Portugal, Brazil and Spain, it is little surprise that LGBTQ+ couples are gravitating towards Spanish and Portuguese speaking destinations.

When it comes to luxury and family travel, travellers may have similar needs and wants, be it LGBTQ+ or non- LGBTQ+ travellers. From generational to experiential travel, these trends tend to have a pretty universal appeal that transcends across all travel niches. However, travel brands and agents who are catering to LGBTQ+ travellers are advised to think about details that matter (but sometimes may not be too obvious).

Small things like bedding configuration, and how to address a couple may not be given a second thought when dealing with non- LGBTQ+ clients, but it pays to be sensitive and conscious about these small details.

When it comes to this, communication is key. It will never hurt to politely ask your clients for details that you think may be essential in making their trip as seamless and as comfortable for them as possible.

A tip for travel agents: Once you have your client’s pertinent information, remember to relay this to suppliers in their trip, such as the hotel or tour operator. Nothing is more frustrating to a traveller (any type of traveller at that) than to have key information missed or not relayed to the concerned suppliers and finding this out during the time of travel.

There are still more than 70 countries (34 are in Africa) where homosexuality is criminalised, and in some instances punishable by death. Popular honeymoon destinations such as the Maldives and Bali, for instance, practice Islamic and Balinese faith respectively. It pays to know what these destinations’ stances are on gay relationships.

An article by The Guardian lists seven countries where LGBTQ+ rights are most under threat. Honduras, Egypt, and Russia are on this list, countries that are relatively popular tourism destinations.

Travel agents and operators with existing partnerships and alliances with hotels and other travel brands are advised to check what these brands’ stances are on LGBTQ+ travel. For instance, should you inadvertently book them in a hotel that discriminates or is unwelcoming to LGBTQ+ travellers, this will reflect on your brand, even if you yourself or your brand is gay friendly.

This is when agent family trips are helpful, as it is essential to feel and see for yourself how a hotel welcomes their guests. This way you can relay customer service experiences to clients and effectively recommend.

It pays to know that for most LGBTQ+ travellers, comfort is the main priority, and not necessarily price. Comfort includes making one feel accepted and LGBTQ+ travellers are happy to spend more for products, experiences, and brands that make them feel welcome.

LGBTQ+ travellers should be treated just like every other luxury travel client. When it comes to tapping into the LGBTQ+ market, a marketing agency needs to keep it simple and straightforward. There is no need to put too much emphasis on the rainbow. For instance, simply stating on your company website that you specialise in LGBTQ+ travel, or that you are a member of IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association) is helpful enough.

Jean Lim

Jean Carmela Lim is the voice behind luxury and adventure travel blog, Holy Smithereens. Since a childhood trip to Hong Kong and her first typewriter, Jean has spent a lifetime pursuing her passion of travel writing. With a background in the airline industry and government travel, Jean now creates travel content full-time on blogs and social media, exploring life's unforgettable moments through luxurious travels both near and far.