The $211 Billion LGBTQ Travel Industry is Getting Serious About Safety

February 28, 2019

Look up “LGBT travel safety” on your favorite search engine. How many results can you find that will give you a rating on how safe a neighborhood for LGBTQ travelers is at this given moment? Better yet, how many results can you find that have even been published in 2018?

We think this is an interesting exercise for a couple of reasons. First, the World Tourism Organization estimates that LGBTQ travelers account for five to 10 percent of global tourists and points out that the LGBTQ community travels at a “greater frequency” and displays “higher-than-average patterns of spending” relative to other categories.

The exercise also underscores the urgency to provide accurate, real-time safety assessments of on-the-ground conditions relevant to LGBTQ tourists. Indeed, Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now, contends that “there is much work to be done by the industry in the areas of communications improvements, strategy development, training and quality assurance for LGBT travelers.”

When traveling, there are inherent risks, and most LGBTQ travelers long ago realized that additional preparation is required in order to stay safe or to understand when and where more vigilance may be necessary.  With anti-gay legislation continuing to pop up around the world, LGBTQ travelers need to have an up-to-date understanding of the cultures they are visiting, the harm they could potentially face and the tools and resources available to ensure their confidence and safety.

Indeed, the travel industry is now working to pivot away from negative messaging on travel (“don’t go here because you could get hurt”), and instead toward more positive messaging (“we now have the tools and resources so that you can plan your trip with confidence”).  The importance of this approach cannot be overstated.

 

BILLION WITH A “B”

As the global visibility of the LGBTQ community increases, so too does their purchasing power — especially in the travel industry, which offers travelers everything from special cruises and tours to LGBTQ-friendly hotels. Recently, consulting firm Out Now conducted research that revealed the global LGBTQ travel market is now worth more than $211 billion in annual consumer spending.

Money talks, and increasingly, the private sector is listening to what the LGBTQ community collectively has to say. Recent news articles have embraced the idea of the “pink dollar,” promoting the notion of LGBTQ travelers as commodities with highly disposable incomes. 

While the travel industry increasingly caters services towards LGBTQ travelers, there are still many regions around the world, including certain countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific, as well as Russia, where rules and regulations as well as certain cultural proclivities exist, creating an unwelcoming or unsafe environment for travelers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. 

There is a growing business imperative, then, to connect LGBTQ travelers with accurate resources that can help promote safety, drive economic development and build lasting connections.

LGBTQ-FRIENDLY TRAVEL Tools, Techniques and Resources

From gay-friendly honeymoon destinations to hotels and tours, the travel industry has slowly adapted to accommodate the specific and unique needs of LGBTQ travelers. As a result, there are numerous resources available to LGBTQ travelers aimed at educating them on safety and acclimating them with local cultures.

From local LGBTQ organizations and publications to U.S. State Department data, the CIA World Factbook and even dating apps like Grindr, using these resources can help travelers better understand the political climate and cultural nuances of a country before leaving home.

Some of the most popular resources available today include the following:

  • The Spartacus Gay Travel Index, which provides a detailed ranking of 197 LGBT-friendly countries worldwide.
  • Fodor’s Gay Guides. Written by Andrew Collins, these completely updated and expanded editions cover thousands of destinations throughout the world.
  • Passport Magazine, a monthly source of unbiased travel writing about destinations and topics pertinent to the gay/lesbian traveler and their friends.
  • Out There magazine is an award-winning luxury and experiential travel inspiration journal for unique, affluent and discerning community of ‘men of distinction’ in 20 countries worldwide.
  • The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, founded in 1983 by a group of travel agents and hotel owners, leads the way in terms of LGBT tourism.

However, some gay travel guides don’t offer a technical, modernized approach on how LGBTQ travelers consider travel today, and others contain outdated information. How can LGBT travelers know what’s safe and what’s not at any given moment, in any particular place?

EMPOWER, EQUIP AND ENGAGE

Safety, comfort and experience are an important part of any vacation, particularly for the more marginalized members of the LGBTQ spectrum. Fortunately, technological advances are now providing tools geared toward helping users decide the safest options when traveling. In addition to trusting a friend or local confidant’s advice, today’s technology solutions can empower LGBTQ travelers with the tools and resources to safely navigate unknown locations.

Consider travel safety app GeoSure, for instance. Following the successful development of the first-ever safety category specifically for women, GeoSure recently launched an LGBTQ category to its award-winning location safety app. GeoSure’s hyper-local, real-time safety measurement platform provides information on more than 30,000 neighborhoods around the world. The personal travel app aggregates data from sources such as Human Rights Watch, Spartacus Day Travel, the IGLA travel association, FBI crime reports, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign, the State Department, the WHO, the United Nations and the CDC.

GeoSure also incorporates sentiment analysis, crowdsourced experience reports and other key indicators to provide easy-to-use safety ratings ranging from 1 (safest) to 100  (least safe), ultimately conveying the most detailed and up-to-date location safety ratings available.

 

SAFETY STEWARDSHIP > DUTY OF CARE

When traveling for business, LGBTQ travelers must ensure they’re protected by their company before traveling to a country where it is illegal to be gay. From remote safety precautions and support networks to additional internal and external resources, employers must promote a message of “safety stewardship,” a nascent but rapidly developing concept focused on supporting employee safety, while accumulating organizational goodwill and assisting with employee recruitment and retention. Crucially, exhibiting the elevated level of care inherent in safety stewardship practices can have cascading effects throughout an organization and across multiple stakeholder groups — not just traveling employees.

 

With advanced solutions, travelers can act as safety sensors, engage with their environment in real time by driving insights in categories such as LGBTQ and women’s safety. Empowering travelers with the ability to control when and where to raise their personal safety antennae and informing travel decisions can ultimately drive elevated safety consciousness.

 

For members of the LGBTQ community, places with openly hostile government policies, cultures and deeply rooted anti-LGBTQ sentiment introduce different safety concerns, where additional care should be applied, than they do for non-LGBTQ travelers. However, this doesn’t mean that travel should be avoided. By engaging with their environment and taking steps to understand how — and where — danger could present itself, LGBT travelers can make informed decisions, ultimately enjoying a smoother and safer travel experience.