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Travel destination concerns of LGBTI tourists

Travel destination concerns of LGBTI tourists
Author: Anna Sinisalo
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Abstract: This paper examines LGBTI tourists´ access to tourism and their travel reality in holiday destinations. It also discusses the needs LGBTI travellers and how destinations would benefit in welcoming them.

Keywords: LGBTI, tourism, destination, discrimination, access to tourism, gay tourist, safety

LGBTI tourism is relatively unknown in academic literature (Kayaalp Ersoy et al, 2012) but in recent years the patriarchal, heteronormative and ethnocentric viewpoint on tourism study has been challenged. Important issues such as equity and participation in tourism have been noted. (Hudges, 2006) Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered and intersexual people face discrimination, prejudice, harassment and even violence. When travelling, one wants to feel relaxed and safe but LGBTI tourists have to take various precautions, keep a low profile and stay alert at all times. There are even countries and destinations where LGBTI people are advised against travelling because it would be too dangerous. For instance, same-sex sexual acts are illegal in 75 countries (Carroll and Itaborahy, 2015) but even if there are legal protections for LGBTI people, the social acceptance might not be on the same level (GETA, 2016).

For LGBTI parents and their children, the rainbow families, mobility across international borders brings forth several new issues. Only a handful of countries fully recognize the parenthood of same-sex couples. Some states give limited protection against discrimination to the children of same-sex parents but in majority of countries these children´s relationships to both parents are not acknowledged. (Falletti, 2014)

LGBTI travellers´ access to tourism and ability to enjoy canon rights is limited almost everywhere in the world but especially outside the West (Bosia, 2014). However, gay tourists travel more than heterosexual tourists and many companies have noted to monetary value of gay tourism. They spend more money, travel more often and during a larger variety of seasons than heterosexuals because they have less likely family engagements and often above average disposable income. LGBTI tourists usually travel alone, in private groups or with a significant other but not in escorted groups. They are brand loyal and prefer companies that take into consideration their needs. (Kayaalp Ersoy et al, 2012) LGBTI travelling, particularly to new destinations, can be a stressful experience. Hence once a suitable destination is found the LGBTI tourist will likely find it easier and less uncomfortable to revisit that destination. As a largely repressed community, the LGBTI people often have a strong sense of social solidarity and prefer tourism products that are environmentally and socially responsible as a way to “give something back to the host community” (UNWTO, 2012).

Requirements for a gay friendly destination are freedom from intimidation and general safety (Kayaalp Ersoy et al, 2012). Particularly, it is the tolerance, openness towards LGBTI people and the feeling of being welcome, that makes a place gay friendly. Infrastructure such as gay establishments and equal rights for LGBTI community are considered as only second most essential things in this aspect. (Hodes et al, 2007)

For many homosexuals a holiday in a gay friendly destination is a way to escape the intolerance and social constraints of everyday life as well as a space to freely express their sexual identity and relate to others. Travelling to gay friendly places, or `gay spaces´, makes it possible to be anonymous and free of judgement. It is a change to build and explore one´s sexual identity. Gay visitors expect that the travel destinations are safe, tolerant and comfortable. Risk avoidance is very relevant part of choosing a holiday destination. (Kayaalp Ersoy et al, 2012) According to LGBT Tourism & Hospitality Survey only 11% would be willing to travel to a place that has discriminating laws against them. (Travel Agent, 2016)

The motives to travel and in picking destinations are fairly similar between heterosexual and LGBTI tourists except for the highlighted need for security, hospitable locals and gay space. However, LGBTI travellers are a heterogeneous market segment like any other segments (Melián-González et al, 2011) and they are interested in as many different forms of tourism as everyone else (Hudges, 2006). They are defined by their sexuality but also by their age, race, social class, abilities, gender and the socio-political climate they live in (UNWTO, 2012).

Destinations have several incentives to begin welcoming LGBTI tourists. The biggest of them is an increase in turn over for businesses and states. Attracting more tourism would also bring more jobs and social as well as financial benefits to the local residents. For example, legalizing same-sex marriage has shown to grow completely new market segments and tourism products (UNWTO, 2012). Legislation supporting LGBTI equality also sends a strong image of progress, open mindedness and tolerance, and it would improve the global brand of a country and generate more good will towards it.

Countries that discriminate against human rights are criticised by the United Nations and Western global community. To succeed in attracting LGBTI visitors it is essential to the local people and companies to challenge assumptions and stereotypes as well as to learn about their market segment with an open mind. (UNWTO, 2012)


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