The term “travel” and its connotations should denote positive experiences, adventure, and enjoyment. Yet for many LGBTQ+ travellers from around the world, the reality of travelling can often paint a very different picture, with new research from leading digital travel platform Booking.com revealing that 71 per cent of UK LGBTQ+ travellers have experienced less than welcoming, or uncomfortable, experiences when travelling.
The most extensive LGBTQ+ travel research from Booking.com to date shines a light on attitudes, concerns, and travel preferences, as well as past stay experiences, current realities and hopes for a more inclusive travel future. Conducted amongst LGBTQ+ travellers across 25 countries around the world, the study shows that negative experiences are most common while travellers are out and about in public (27 per cent), with LGBTQ+ travellers from India (100 per cent), Denmark (97 per cent) and Mexico (93 per cent) indicating that they are experiencing this most frequently.
The reality of LGBTQ+ travel today
With the study exposing the barriers to inclusive travel that still remain for LGBTQ+ travellers, it also highlights that travel in principle and travel in practice are sometimes two different things for the community. For almost two thirds of (60 per cent) UK LGBTQ+ travellers, travel does present a time to relax and mentally unwind. However, the reality is that there are a number of additional considerations extending across the entire travel experience that those outside the community may never need to think about.
With nearly half (46 per cent) of LGBTQ+ travellers having experienced discrimination while traveling, through being subjected to stereotyping (26 per cent) being stared at, laughed at, or verbally abused by other travellers (13 per cent) and/or locals (16 per cent), it's not surprising that LGBTQ+ travellers face the added complexity of navigating a trip from selecting a destination all the way through to the activities they take part in:
- Sixty-three per cent of UK LGBTQ+ travellers say that being part of the community impacts the decisions they make when planning
- For example, when selecting a destination:
- Sixty-one per cent report they have to consider their safety and wellbeing as an LGBTQ+ traveller - most strongly felt by travellers who identify as queer (75 per cent) or gay (74 per cent)
- Nearly half (43 per cent) of the LGBTQ+ community feel that the destinations on their 'bucket list' have been affected by being part of the community
- Forty-nine per cent believe being a member of the LGBTQ+ community impacts who they choose to travel with
- Forty-seven per cent indicate it impacts the activities they participate in when away
Promising signs of progress and positivity
While there are many obstacles to inclusive travel for those who identify as LGBTQ+, there are still significant areas where travellers are having positive interactions and experiences, with 91 per cent of LGBTQ+ travellers reporting that the majority of their travel experiences so far have been welcoming – with gay and lesbian travellers most likely to agree (90 per cent).
It's also refreshing that over half (51 per cent) of travellers report that being part of the LGBTQ+ community actually makes them feel more confident as a traveller, with 84% saying that they do have the confidence to explore the destinations they want to visit. Gay travellers are most confident here (87 per cent), followed by bisexual travellers (86 per cent).
Ahead of arriving at their chosen property, 24 per cent indicate that they have had friendly and informative correspondence with the property, with almost a quarter (24 per cent) also being offered guidance and information for the local area during their stay. When arriving at a destination, a first impression counts for everything and, fortunately, this has resulted in a positive experience for over a third (34 per cent) of LGBTQ+ travellers who say they have experienced great first impressions on arrival, such as welcome drinks or friendly staff.
Community connection is key
The research from Booking.com also reveals that the LGBTQ+ community of a destination sits at the heart of many LGBTQ+ traveller decisions, and a passion to experience all that this community has to offer is prevalent amongst the findings:
- Sixty-five per cent of UK LGBTQ+ travellers are more likely to travel to a destination that celebrates its local LGBTQ+ community and history
- Over half (51 per cent) are more likely to choose travel that allows them to learn more about the historical aspects of the LGBTQ+ community in their chosen destination
(Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 5,514 LGBTQ+ travellers from Argentina (100), Australia (300), Belgium (100), Brazil (250), Canada (402), Colombia (150), Croatia (101), Denmark (100), France (500), Germany (502), Hong Kong (100), India (201), Israel (101), Italy (300), Japan (200), Mexico (151), Netherlands (250), New Zealand (100), Spain (200), Sweden (102), Taiwan (100), Thailand (100), United Kingdom (502), United States (502), Vietnam (100). The survey was taken online and took place in April & May 2022.)