According to a recent survey by digital travel agency Booking.com, LGBTQ+ travelers are finding some confidence to be themselves while away from home, but maybe it's what the numbers don't say that's more concerning.
In August 2021, Booking.com questioned 3,052 LGBTQ travelers from across three continents*. The numbers are encouraging; nevertheless there is a lot of work to be done.
The hope lies in the bigger numbers reported, however, the findings also reveal (or imply) there is still a significant amount of homophobia in countries with no laws against homosexuality.
Queer travelers are no strangers to cautious trepidation. The study found that 65% carefully thought about their well-being when picking a destination and 58% understand that some places are simply off the table.
Keep in mind there are still 65 countries where homosexuality is illegal. So if you want to be intimate with your husband in Kenya or hold hands with your partner through a botanic garden excursion in Singapore, you are indeed breaking the law. There are no two ways about it.
Although traveling while LGBTQ+ is fraught with anxiety, especially to areas where the reaction to your sexual identity is uncertain, according to the poll: "87% of LGTBQ+ travellers surveyed believe that the 'majority of the travel experiences they’ve had so far have been welcoming.'"
Still, "58% of LGTBQ+ travellers have felt welcomed “most of the time” during their stays." The survey doesn't define what "most of the time" actually means.
Here are some other findings from the survey:
- 24% have been offered LGBTQ+ specific advice or guidance on the area during their stay, with almost one in four (23%) receiving this at the time of check-in.
- 75% of respondents haven’t had staff assume they would need separate rooms or beds when checking in as a couple.
- 76% haven’t experienced staff or accommodation owners at check-in incorrectly assuming their relationship to their travel companion/companions.
- 77% have felt comfortable to ask for LGTBQ+ friendly local tips or recommendations.
- 42% don’t believe being LGBTQ+ impacts the decisions they make when planning a trip.
- 50% say that being LGBTQ+ hasn’t affected their destination bucket list.
- 46% report that being LGTBQ+ doesn’t affect who they choose to travel with.
- 43% indicate that travelling as an LGTBQ+ person doesn’t impact how they behave with their significant other when travelling together.
- 46% believe being LGTBQ+ doesn’t impacts how they present themselves during their trip (for example, clothing, makeup choices etc)
The numbers look promising and yet there is still a huge margin, sometimes less than half of those polled, who felt challenged in areas such as public displays of affection or who they choose to travel with.
Arjan Dijk, the CMO and Senior Vice President of Booking.com, is also gay. He says his company is working on "smoother and more enjoyable travel experiences for everyone."
“As a gay traveler myself," adds Dijk, "I share some of these same concerns, but also equal amounts of optimism for a better future. One in five LGBTQ+ travelers say they are hopeful about being able to travel without restrictions or limitations in the next five years."
As a way to help LGBTQ+ travelers find their way safely around the world, the Amsterdam based Booking.com has implemented something they call a Proud Travel Inititive. This program is for accommodation partners who want to be recognized as "gay friendly."
The first step is a training program called "Proud Hospitality." This 75-minute course earns hosts a Proud Certified label which alerts LGBTQ clients using the online booking app that the property is inclusive.
"Cities with multiple Proud Certified properties will also be showcased on a designated Travel Proud page, where travelers can learn more about the initiative, as well as find and book properties that are Proud Certified."
So far there are only nine cities on the Travel Proud page: New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, Manchester, Rotterdam, London, Edinburgh, Paris, and Toronto.
Dijk seems optimistic about travelers who say they expect to see more LGBTQ+ travel inclusion in the next five years.
"We firmly believe we can get there together and that everyone should be able to experience the world as themselves, always,” he said.
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 3,052 LGBTQ+ travellers from the United States (500), Canada (400), the UK (500), the Netherlands (251), Germany (501), France (500), Australia (300) and New Zealand (100). The survey was taken online and took place in June & July 2021