This inspiring recipient of an IGLTA Foundation grant for the LGBTQ+ Tourism Scholarship used the opportunity to make travel in Africa a safe and comfortable experience for this community. Michael is also the founder and CEO of The Travel and Event Company, which has specialised in MICE for nearly two decades.
As founder and owner of Afrigay Travel, Michael is passionate about ensuring that LGBTQ+ travellers have the most welcoming experience they can dream of. Afrigay Travel plays a dual role in diversifying the industry. They curate travel experiences, from same-sex honeymoons and weddings to group travel, and offer ground-breaking e-learning opportunities to help members of the global tourism industry understand the LGBTQ+ community through their All Stay online platform.
Michael says he is excited to play a significant part in changing the face of LGBTQ+ tourism in South Africa by helping the industry find a way to become authentically inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly.
How will Johannesburg Pride improve South Africa’s image in the eyes of the LGBTQ+ community?
I am a staunch supporter of the Pride concept, and all our Pride organisations in South Africa are doing wonderful and important work. But there is, unfortunately, a trend to use pride events and Pride month as a tactical way to show support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Many initiatives and campaigns run for the Pride event period are simply rainbow-washing and do not show any form of sustainability. Support for the LGBTQ+ community is welcome, but it is of no use if the Pride flags disappear after the event and only reappear a year later to be dusted off and used again. If South African businesses are on board 365 days a year, I believe this will make a substantial positive difference in improving South Africa’s image in the eyes of the LGBTQ+ community.
What role do pride events play in tourism?
Pride events should be a big draw for LGBTQ+ tourists. More emphasis should be placed on bringing tourists to destinations to participate in South African Pride events. There is a perfect opportunity to curate South African experiences and include them as part of a Pride event.
What are the most exciting developments on the LGTBQ+ front in tourism?
All Stay LGBTQ+ Sensitivity & Awareness Training. Hotel groups recognise the value of LGBTQ+ travellers and realise that it’s not enough to say, “We welcome everyone.” As a result, they are investing time and money in LGBTQ+ Sensitivity and Awareness Training with All Stay.
To create a truly inclusive environment, the tourism industry must educate and train all employees interacting with customers. Teach them what they don’t know and help them change misconceptions and debunk myths about the LGBTQ+ community. This exciting development is changing the mindset and the way the industry interacts with LGBTQ+ travellers.
How do you see LGBTQ+ travel evolving in Africa?
I am in conversation with several tourism organisations in South Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, and some Indian Ocean Island nations about the concept of LGBTQ+ tourism and the need to train staff to be better equipped to engage with this community.
Of course, there are challenges in some countries where homosexuality is still illegal, which makes things more complicated. However, these organisations are still willing to explore the possibilities and take the right steps. It’s an exciting development, and I believe that in a year or so, we will have achieved incredible, positive changes that will open many more doors for LGBTQ+ travellers to experience Africa.
What do LGBTQ+ travellers want?
Most LGBTQ+ travellers seek experiences similar to those in the mainstream market. There is a misconception that gay travellers are looking for nightlife, for example. These travellers exist but make up only a tiny portion of the market.
LGBTQ+ travellers are looking for destinations where they are legally welcome. They tend to choose hotels and other accommodations that are known to be LGBTQ-friendly. There is also a big trend toward supporting organisations that actively promote sustainable tourism.
What is going right in this sector?
The realisation by some key industry players that LGBTQ+ travellers are here to stay will only increase in value. And that their organisations must embark on the journey with us and make the changes without using tactical rainbow-washing strategies
What are the biggest challenges Africa still needs to overcome in the LGBTQ+ space?
Human rights. We need businesses and big companies to step in and help raise awareness and make the necessary changes so that all LGBTQ+ individuals can enjoy the same rights as we can in South Africa.