The Rainbow Connection: Supporting LGBTQ2S+ travellers and hoteliers

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Once thought of as being a purely niche market, more and more accommodations are recognizing the authentic needs of LGBTQ2S+ travellers sensitive to fairness and inclusivity and taking steps to reprioritize themselves as such.

Historically, LGBTQ2S+ individuals often faced discrimination and were marginalized from mainstream society, including in the hospitality industry. Canadian laws and societal norms during much of the 20th century did not support LGBTQ2S+ rights, leading to instances where individuals could be denied service or face hostility in public spaces, including hotels.

Despite these challenges, LGBTQ2S+-friendly spaces began to emerge, particularly in larger cities with more vibrant LGBTQ2S+ communities, such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. These spaces weren’t always explicitly hotels at first but included bars, clubs, and bathhouses that provided safe havens for the community. Over time, some guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, and small hotels started to market themselves as welcoming to LGBTQ2S+ travellers, offering a sense of safety and community.

Significant legal and societal changes have impacted the hospitality industry’s relationship with the LGBTQ2S+ community. The decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada in 1969 was a critical turning point, followed by a series of legal advancements that culminated in the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2005. These changes have led to a more open and accepting environment in many parts of the country, including in the hospitality sector.

The growth of Pride events across Canada has also played a crucial role in highlighting the importance of the LGBTQ2S+ community to the tourism industry. Major cities across Canada host annual Pride festivals that attract visitors from around the world. This has encouraged hotels and other accommodations to become more openly supportive and inclusive, recognizing the economic and social value of the LGBTQ2S+ tourism market.

In recent years, there has been a move towards formalizing the commitment to LGBTQ2S+ inclusion through certification and training programs for hospitality staff. Organizations like Tourism Toronto and Travel Gay Canada offer programs and resources to help hotels and other tourism-related businesses understand and cater to LGBTQ2S+ travellers’ needs. These programs often include training on non-discriminatory practices, creating welcoming spaces, and marketing to LGBTQ2S+ tourists.

Even with these advancements in understanding and more visible representation in our institutions, the queer community still has concerns their straight counterparts often take for granted when travelling.

Think about it: there are over 62 countries where it remains illegal to engage in same-sex relations. In at least 13 countries homosexuality is punishable by death, and in a further nine countries, gay people can face life imprisonment. Moreover, in a host of other countries, even where homosexuality is legal, many gay travellers still have to worry about verbal or physical harassment, bullying, and a host of microaggressions.

A survey commissioned by as recently as 2020, indicated that 30 per cent of LGBTQ travellers felt judged by hotel staff.

Thanks to a generally higher disposable income, the increased likelihood of owning a passport and a gradual awakening towards diversity, equity and inclusion, gay and lesbian travellers are slowly but surely being welcomed, even embraced, by accommodations eager to fortify a relationship with this powerful demographic.

Today’s LGBTQ2S+ travellers want assurances that they are entering safe and welcoming spaces that match their aesthetics and expectations.

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“Every time we choose an LGBTQ2S+ welcoming hotel, we send a powerful message,” says John Tanzella, president and CEO of The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA). “We say, ‘We matter, we exist, and we deserve welcoming spaces just like everyone else.’ It’s about visibility, validation, and showing the world that our community is a force to be reckoned with in the travel industry.”

Tanzella says that the impact of supporting gay-positive hotels goes way beyond visibility.

“Choosing these hotels is an investment in our own community. These businesses often actively support LGBTQ2S+ causes, hire talent from within our community, and advocate for our rights. By supporting them, we’re investing in our collective future.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by many including Jean-Philip Dupré, general manager of Toronto’s Anndore House, a JdV by Hyatt hotel, which is located in the heart of Toronto’s “gaybourhood.”

“The Anndore House is able to provide our guests with easy access to a community that celebrates diversity and inclusion,” he says. “At our hotel, we truly value diversity and strive to create an inclusive environment for all guests. We have implemented policies and training programs that promote equality and respect, ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and accepted. We actively support and participate in various LGBTQ2S+ events, such as Pride parades and fundraisers and support local organizations. By doing so, we demonstrate our genuine commitment to the community and show that we are more than just a hotel—we are a proud ally.”

While The Anndore House makes a deliberate and conscious attempt to become part of a vibrant community, other hotels found that affinity with their consumer base evolved more naturally over time.

Carlos Perez, 48, is a multi-hyphenate who triples as a designer-manager and concierge of Montreal’s Boxotel since 2022.

“Boxotel is a four-star boutique hotel built in 2016,” he says. “It began with a different vision of the hospitality industry in terms of eco-responsibility and sustainability with an emphasis on wellness (both physical and mental). Boxotel wasn’t specifically intended to be a gay traveller’s destination hotel. It happened rather organically due in part to the queerness of its team members, our proximity to Montreal’s gay village and the fact that we offer an overall experience like no other in the city.”

Boxotel’s relatively compact size, brutalist design elements and emphasis on wellness and sustainability add to the accommodation’s aesthetic. Its pied-à-terre style units boast full kitchens, luxurious washrooms, king-sized Murphy beds, and bespoke furniture that enable guests to adapt their units according to their needs, says Perez.

Not to be outdone, The Anndore House “has taken specific measures to make our hotel a welcoming space for LGBTQ2S+ guests. For example, we offer gender-neutral bathrooms, inclusive room options, and staff who are trained to provide a safe and respectful environment for all,” says Dupré.

“Being close to other LGBT-friendly businesses, and walking distance to the bars and nightlife is part of the criteria LGBTQ2S+ travellers look for,” he adds. “Guests are also looking for things to do that are off the beaten path. They want their hotel to have a personality and to offer experiences that they cannot get back home. Being a boutique hotel allows us to showcase our personality far beyond our design and our programming initiatives. Our live music, art exhibits and drag brunches are just a few examples of how we offer unique experiences to our guests by connecting and showcasing the LGBT talent that is in Toronto.”

Perhaps the most important concern for LGBTQ2S+ travellers is safety.

“Montreal is already a relatively safe city and LGBTQ2S+ travellers seem to instantly feel at home here,” says Perez. The Anndore House has gone the extra mile by implementing policies and training programs that promote equality and respect, ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and accepted.

In recent years, LGBTQ2S+ associations have introduced accreditation and training programs that recognize specific accommodations as being safe and welcoming spaces for queer travellers. In Canada, The Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce offers its Rainbow Registered program and lists over 60 accommodations on its website that meet the criteria for inclusivity.

Working globally, IGLTA launched its accreditation program in June 2023. It’s built on eight pillars, including policy, advocacy, diversity, equity, inclusivity, transparency, sensitivity and not least, community. To meet this designation hotels must successfully document fulfillment of all the criteria showcasing their dedication to creating safe environments for LGBTQ2S+ travellers.

“The LGBTQ2S+ community’s quest for safe spaces isn’t an outsider’s plea, it’s a booming business opportunity. This market rewards inclusivity with loyalty, innovation, and a competitive edge. And remember, LGBTQ2S+ travellers have families and friends who also want to support businesses that support their loved ones. Hotels that celebrate diversity attract diverse customers, strengthen their brand, and fuel positive change. It’s a win-win, shaping a brighter future for travellers and the industry alike,” says Tanzella

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The history of the LGBTQ2S+ community in Canada is marked by numerous milestones that reflect the ongoing struggle for rights, recognition, and equality:

Early 1970s: Establishment of the First Gay Liberation Movements and Organizations

The early 1970s saw the formation of Canada's first gay liberation groups and organizations, such as the Community Homophile Association of Toronto (CHAT), the Vancouver Gay Liberation Front, and others. These organizations played crucial roles in advocacy, support, and social change.

1971: First Gay Rights Protest in Canada

The first public demonstration for gay rights in Canada took place on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and at Robson Square in Vancouver in 1971. These protests marked the beginning of organized political activism by the gay community in Canada.

1996: Inclusion of Sexual Orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act

A pivotal legislative milestone was the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected ground from discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act in 1996. This was a significant advancement in ensuring legal protections for the LGBTQ2S+ community.

2005: Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act on July 20, 2005. This historic decision by the Canadian Parliament followed a series of court decisions across provinces that recognized the right to marriage for same-sex couples.

2017: Apology to LGBTQ2S+ Community

In a historic gesture, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized to LGBTQ2S+ Canadians in the House of Commons for past state sponsored discrimination against them. This apology was accompanied by the announcement of compensation for those affected and the launch of the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act to clear the records of those convicted of consensual same-sex activities.

2020: Ban on Conversion Therapy

Canada banned conversion therapy for minors nationwide, marking a significant step in protecting LGBTQ+ youths from practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The journey of the gay community in Canada from marginalization to recognition underscores the importance of activism, legal battles, and societal shifts in shaping a more inclusive country.

LGBTQ2S+ Travel Resources

→ The Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce lists over 60 accommodations that are Rainbow Registered as LGBTQ2S+ safe spaces and includes many other businesses at

→ View the list of all Canadian Rainbow Registered hotels at

→ The International Gay and Lesbian Travellers Association recently made the pages of Vanity Fair with the introduction of its accreditation program. Founded in 1983, IGLTA provides free travel resources while continuously working to promote equality and safety within LGBTQ2S+ tourism worldwide at

→ Travel Proud: has joined forces with HospitableMe to offer a free Proud Hospitality training course as part of the Travel Proud Programme. It’s designed exclusively for partners and includes a take home toolkit for staff training, with the goal of helping partners achieve Proud Certified status at

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