In a turbulent world, the case for deepening the social, environmental and economic impact of LGBTQ+ travel is stronger than ever before. In a new paper I’ve authored for the IGLTA Foundation, I explain how we can achieve this together.
- Consumer survey data shows that LGBTQ+ consumers are willing to adopt practices that reduce their environmental footprint and contribute to the wellbeing of communities in the destinations that they visit.
- As OutRight International has highlighted, for the global LGBTQ+commuity, COVID-19 amplified many pre-existing vulnerabilities, with impacts felt by LGBTQ+ individuals in both developed and developing countries
- War, climate change and persecution are likely to increase these inequalities. The LGBTQ+ tourism industry has a role to play in supporting vulnerable memebers of the community
- This report explains how the LGBTQ+ travel ecosystem can work together to ensure that LGBTQ+ travel rebuilds in a way that brings net positive impacts to destinations.
At various times in the past few years, those of us who have been lucky enough to travel a lot were forced to consider what the world might look like if travel really never came back. Now that countries are releasing restrictions and airports are packed with queues of people eager to get away, we can see that tourism is coming back, but which direction is it taking? Are consumers really looking for the same thing from their travels?
It seems a long time ago now, but think back, pre-pandemic about some of the big issues that were already making the headlines in our sector: the accelerating effects of climate change, the rise of populism, racial inequality, and the challenge of managing tourism growth in certain places. The pandemic provided many of us with an opportunity to slow down and think about what we’re doing and why (me included).
Will future generations of LGBTQ+ travellers be as lucky?
Furthermore, those of us who watch the LGBTQ+ tourism market closely often get wrapped up thinking about who’s travelling now and why- but have we ever stopped to think about the world that LGBTQ+ Generation Zers and Generation Alphas are going to inherit? With global warming accelerating, and the global spread of LGBTQ+ equality (sadly) far from guaranteed, how freely will these generations be able to discover the world in the future? So, how can the LGBTQ+ sector contribute its share (or even lead) when it comes to making tourism far more sustainable?
It’s been more than a decade since I authored the UNWTO’s Global Report on LGBT Travel. Since that time I’ve been fortunate enough to attend many events in different parts of the world – in particular the IGLTA Convention, a major B2B event focussed fully on education and networking in this sector. I’ve also given keynote speeches in countries as diverse as South Africa, Sweden, Spain, Costa Rica, Malta and Thailand, and run destination development and strategy workshops in Colombia.
While the cultural context and level of experience in working with LGBTQ+ travellers can vary widely from place to place, the topics of discussion often land on similar ground: the importance of traveller safety, avoiding the trap of assuming LGBTQ travellers are all white gay men, and how to be authentic, both in the experience and service offered and the way it is marketed. While these are all important topics to address (and will remain relevant), I’ve long had the feeling that we urgently need to go deeper into some of these topics, and take on new challenges as a sector, too.
That’s where ‘Going Further’ comes in. In early 2021 I started collaborating with the IGLTA Foundation on setting out this new vision in a report, using the lessons learned from the past few years, together with a large amount of primary and secondary research. Founded in 2012, the IGLTA Foundation is the public charity subsidiary of the IGLTA and supports initiatives for industry organisations, leaders and communities to advance LGBTQ+ travel around the world.
Today we launch ‘Going Further: How to Make LGBTQ+ Travel Transformational for Travelers, Communities and the Planet
This 35-page report explains why the case for deepening the social, environmental and economic impact of LGBTQ+ travel is stronger than ever before, and through a series of five positive steps for action, provides practical recommendations on how this can be done.
The report starts by exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the global LGBTQ+ population (impacts which are still affecting the lives of many around the world). It then presents exclusive data from the 2021 IGLTA Consumer Survey —with two new areas of data revealed for the first time in this report— that demonstrate how LGBTQ+ consumers are willing to adopt practices that reduce their environmental footprint and contribute to the wellbeing of communities in the destinations that they visit.
The second half of the report explains how the LGBTQ+ travel community can work together to ensure that LGBTQ+ travel rebuilds in a way that brings net positive impacts to destinations. This is presented through five steps for positive action:
- Lightening our environmental footprint; recognising that the long-term survival of LGBTQ+ travel (indeed the survival of the global LGBTQ+ population) depends on natural resources being conserved and biodiversity being protected
- Reflecting our diverse community; ensuring that people of color, women, seniors, families, transgender, non-binary, plus sized or disabled travelers and many other groups in society get much greater recognition and visibility in the LGBTQ+ travel space than they’ve seen in the past
- Building our social impact; strengthening our role as agents of local regeneration, by changing the lives of those in need, and by helping to underpin the safety and quality of life of (LGBTQ+) residents in the destinations where we work
- Strengthening LGBTQ+ travel as an agent of change in emerging destinations; expanding the potential of LGBTQ+ tourism to combat damaging stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people, and demonstrate that tourism can be a vehicle for the global LGBTQ+ community to be more visible and better understood
- Driving community transformation through travel; serving our community better by creating innovative new services and travel formats that help individuals in community to socialise, improve their health and wellbeing and make meaningful connections
Doing this can sometimes involve addressing the real, raw challenges that the global LGBTQ+ community still faces, and that’s not always going to be easy. However I believe that when we ask ourselves ‘why we do what we do’, the answer must challenge us to go way beyond earning money to pay the bills. I invite you to download this report today and use it to challenge yourself, your colleagues and your industry partners on how to ‘go further’.
DOWNLOAD THE REPORT:
Going Further was launched on 27th October 2022 at the IGLTA’s 38th Annual Global Convention in Milan, Italy. Following the presentation, I was deeply honoured to be presented with the Hans Ebensten Hall of Fame Award, in recognition of my long-standing research and advisory work in the field of LGBTQ+ travel (read more here).
I’d like to close by thanking the Board of the IGLTA Foundation and staff of IGLTA for their support, as well as Aisha Shaibu from Moonlight Experiences for her valuable input on diversity, equity and inclusion.