LGBTQ Travel Market Grows, But Barriers Remain

  • The LGBTQ community represents an estimated purchasing power of $ 3.9 trillion each year.
  • There is a strong community of tourism businesses promoting LGBTQ interests across the world.
  • Yet more than 70 countries prohibit homosexuality.
  • This article is part of a series called “The Cost of Inequity,” examining the barriers that marginalized and disenfranchised groups face in various sectors.

The LGBTQ travel industry has come a long way over the past four decades, growing from a largely secretive operation to a full-fledged multi-billion dollar industry.

When the International LGBTQ + Travel Association, or IGLTA, was founded in 1983, it was a mostly underground network of 25 travel agencies dedicated to providing its customers with a safe and welcoming travel experience.

It now operates in over 80 countries with Delta Air Lines, Marriott, Hilton, Disney Destinations and others as partners. Its mission is to provide information and resources to the LGBTQ community while advocating for its social and economic impact on a global scale.

But there is still a long way to go before a truly fair journey becomes a reality.

At least 70 countries still ban homosexuality, according to Human Rights Watch. Some of these countries are home to popular tourist attractions, such as the Pyramids of Egypt and the Caribbean beaches of Jamaica, Barbados, and St. Lucia.

Destinations and businesses that do not welcome LGBTQ travelers are missing out on a huge economic opportunity. The business consulting and asset management firm LGBT Capital Estimates that the community represents $ 3.9 trillion in purchasing power worldwide each year. In 2016, Out Now estimated that the LGBTQ travel market could be worth up to $ 211 billion a year.

And according to surveys conducted by IGLTA, members of the LGBTQ community are largely anxious to travel again as the vaccine rollout continues. A recent IGLTA survey of 6,324 people around the world who identify as LGBTQ found that 73% planned to take a significant vacation before the end of 2021. And 23% had already booked vacations the week before.

One of the ways the market can grow is to educate those in power on what they stand to gain by becoming more welcoming. IGLTA aims to educate government and business leaders and entities about the LGBTQ community to show that it is a “viable economic community, but also that it is a human rights issue. to provide equal opportunity and equal acceptance to all, ”IGLTA CEO John Tanzella said in a statement. recent interview with Insider.

While organizations like IGLTA seek to provide information and resources to the LGBTQ community, they are not asking people to boycott places where they might not feel welcome.

“Egypt certainly doesn’t have good laws for LGBTQ people, but you can’t tell someone not to go and see the pyramids. It’s something everyone should see before they die.” , said Tanzella. “It’s about going there and being safe, but being visible and supporting the LGBTQ community and supporting the diversity of communities and organizations there.

“And it’s easy to do. Just do some homework before you go,” he said, adding that travelers should find out about local LGBTQ issues before setting off on a trip.

Additionally, said Tanzella, discrimination against LGBTQ people can occur anywhere, no matter how progressive a travel destination’s laws are, so it’s important not to appear to limit access.

Improve LGBTQ representation in marketing

Including diverse representation in advertising and other branding messages is another important part of advancing LGBTQ travel, experts told Insider.

Orbitz, owned by the Expedia Group, is a partner of IGLTA and has featured LGBTQ people in its ads since its inception in 2001.

Travel in orbit like you are

Orbitz launched its “Travel As You Are” campaign in April.

Courtesy of Orbitz


In 2002, he launched gayorbitz.com, which featured information on LGBTQ-friendly vacation destinations. In doing so, Orbitz became the first online travel agency to host pages dedicated to the LGBTQ community. And, in 2003, he was credited with airing the first TV commercials featuring “unambiguously gay portrayals in mainstream discourse to LGBTQIA consumers,” the company said.

In August 2020, Orbitz launched a travel hub promoting hotels, events and welcoming destinations for the LGBTQ community. It goes even further by asking hotels to commit to a commitment to inclusiveness and non-discrimination before being able to appear on the site. Orbitz provides additional advice to hotels on things like training staff in the use of pronouns and providing information on LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods and activities.

“We realized that travel is a huge force for good in the world. It can connect people and expose them to new cultures, new people,” said Carey Malloy, brand director at Orbitz.

“And we also realized that different types of people have different needs and that travel is not always accessible to everyone in the same way, which is why we have always championed the idea of ​​access.”

Orbitz recently launched a advertising campaign called “Travel As You Are” featuring a diverse set of LGBTQ couples.

Tanzella said education around diversity and intersectionality in the LGBTQ community has been a major focus in recent years.

“Previously, this was where corporate imagery or marketing was one-size-fits-all,” he said. “It would be, you know, a bunch of white, built, hairless gays in Speedos, and then that’s the image of the LGBTQ community, but that doesn’t really appeal to all segments of our community.

“It has really evolved over the years, just out of awareness and marketing to our community. “