Creating more inclusion through LGBT travel
In a recent survey by Virgin Holidays released this October on the state of LGBT travel and the issues faced by LGBT travelers worldwide, it noted that 37 percent of LGBT travelers have experienced some form of discrimination while traveling.
Likewise, around six percent reported a threat of physical violence because of their sexuality.
Moreover, eighty percent of LGBT travelers say that the travel industry isn’t doing their part to inform them of local laws before they fly to another country.
In light of these results, some travel groups prefer taking a stand to create wider LGBT inclusiveness around the world, both for travelers and the countries they visit.
LGBT travel: Virgin helps out
Virgin Holidays, on its own, is making moves to not only ensure their staff and LGBT customers are well-informed about the countries they visit but also supporting LGBT equality.
With the help of the UK-based Stonewall rights organization, Virgin Holidays will have their offices audited on its LGBT inclusion efforts as well as provide advice and support.
Likewise, Virgin Holidays is planning to stage an LGBT equalities conference with international tourism partners– even as they push partners in conservative regions (like the Caribbean) to have more LGBT-friendly policies.
Sir Richard Branson said: “At Virgin Holidays, we believe everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has the right to be whoever they are, wherever they are.”
“That’s why it is shocking that in today’s society some of us can’t even enjoy a simple holiday without fear of discrimination,” Branson said.
LGBT travel: No to travel boycotts
On the other hand, Michael Luongo of the San Francisco Chronicle asked if it’s possible to consider LGBT travel as a political act.
For some LGBT travel agencies and organizations, they’re against any travel boycott to destinations with anti-LGBT policies or those that discriminate against the community.
This is because they see LGBTs actually traveling to these places making a difference.
“The transformative power of travel is why many in the industry say that, instead of boycotts, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning travelers should see the world and create change,” Luongo wrote.
LGBT travel expert Ed Salvato, editor in chief of online travel magazine ManAboutWorld and co-author of The Handbook of LGBT Tourism and Hospitality Marketing: A Guide to Business Practice, said: “Gay culture is the quickest bridge between two people.”
“The gay connection, it kind of transcends. It almost overrides any other potentially obstacle-creating difference,” Salvato said.
Of course, there’s a caveat here: some of the boycott opponents consider countries like Russia and Uganda dangerous exceptions.
“Where governments condone or actually create violence at gay pride events, and have exercised extreme intimidation against their own citizens who happen to gay and lesbian, I won’t go to places like that,” Philip Sheldon, president of Hanns Ebensten Travel, the world’s first gay travel company, said.