Written by: Krull, Vanessa
Even though several countries have legalized gay-marriage and many people around the world came to accept people of queer identities, there are still numerous destinations where queer travellers are not welcome and have to fear harassment as well as discrimination. Therefore, this paper will present an insight into the travel motivations, choices and potential behaviour of queer identities in regards to homophobic and anti-gay destinations.
Homophobia in tourism, homophobia, gay travel, queer travel, homophobic destinations
In the past, research has shown that queer and straight people share similar travel motivations (Pritchard et al, 2000). Overall, queer travellers seem to value the prospect of relaxing and enjoying unstructured time during their holidays to the same extent as straight travellers (Pritchard et al, 2000). On the other hand, Hughes (2006) argued that many people of the queer community also use traveling in order to explore their sexuality, go through an on-going coming out process or to escape heterosexual surroundings.
As stated above, sexuality does not always have an effect on queer individuals holiday choices however, many want to feel welcome as well as accepted in their holiday destination, particularly when the hosts are aware of a guest’s sexuality (Poria, 2006). Moreover, the need for safety, acceptance and ‘queer-friendliness’ in destinations was identified as a decisive factor which is likely to be able to influence destination choices (Pritchard et al, 2000). The exploration of this matter also included primary research in form of an interview. Two queer participants, who travel regularly, agreed that safety is one vital criteria destinations should fulfil. One interviewee further explained that safety also “involves political safety as well as climatic conditions and social structures.”
Many western countries have changed their views and attitudes towards the queer community over the last years which makes them popular holiday destinations (Hughes, 2006). Nevertheless, there are still several African and Islamic countries which queer travellers try to avoid since most of those regions still do not tolerate homosexuality and even consider it as an illegal act (Pritchard et al, 2000). Concerning this issue, one participant of the primary research said, “I will always try to avoid destinations that act homophobic and if I was ever to travel to those destinations, I will try to adapt to the rules even though I do not particularly want to.” The second participant added that, “I want to travel with my girlfriend without having to be afraid of getting assaulted or arrested. I also do not want to support a homophobic country economically and spend money there.”
The potential risks queer travellers would have to face during a holiday in those destinations do not only have an impact on destination choices but also the travel behaviour of a queer individual before booking a holiday and while staying in a homophobic country (Poria, 2006). The lack of travel experiences in homophobic destinations or with a same-sex partner are the reasons why in the past, neither of the two interviewees has checked a destination’s view or laws on queer people before booking a holiday. However, both equally admitted that this pre-booking action should be seen as necessary. Additionally, the interview suggested that queer people do not want to hide their sexuality but recognize this act as their only choice in order to travel safely while visiting a homophobic destination. Furthermore, Poria (2006) claimed that social interactions with locals and other tourists may be affected as well which both participants confirmed by stating that they would not show any kind of affection in public to their partner. One participant further commented that “at home, you got used to weird looks or maybe comments from other people. You are able to calculate the extent of reactions. This however, is not possible in a foreign destination.”
In the end, the presented literature and statements from both interviewees have demonstrated the differences between queer and straight travellers regarding several different aspects. Even though the fundamental travel motivations may be seen as identical, the issue of personal safety is still a factor many people of the queer community are concerned with. These concerns are often connected to homophobic destinations in which queer travellers are not tolerated or are being forced to change their social behaviour, particularly while travelling with a same-sex partner. Changing a person’s social behaviour and hiding their sexual identity during a holiday will set up limitations which may ultimately have an impact on personal travel experiences.
Hughes, H. L. (2006) Pink Tourism: Holidays of Gay Men and Lesbians. Wallingford: CABI.
Poria, Y. (2006) Assessing Gay Men and Lesbians Women’s Hotel Experiences: An Exploratory Study of Sexual Orientation in the Travel Industry. Journal of Travel Research, 44(3) 327-334.
Pritchard, A., Morgan, N., Sedgley, D., Khan, E., Jenkins, A. (2000) Sexuality and Holiday Choices: Conversations with Gay and Lesbian Tourists. Leisure Studies, 19(4) 267-282.
I made my decision to comment on this paper due to the fact that my research to this topics had similarities and further, I am personally affected by the issues mentioned. My own paper dealt with homophobia in several regions of the world as well as the challenges queer travellers face and how anti-homophobic policies are used to market gay friendly holiday.
The discussion was introduced by stating that queer and straight travellers do not differ much from each other when it comes to their travel motivation as both admire relaxation and spare time equally. However, what makes a difference is that gay people try to enjoy and experience their sexual preferences. It was outlined that two major motivations for gay travellers are the sense of belonging and a desire of freedom. In connection to those motivations, the research considers two main factors of sexual orientation identities, which are openness with sexual orientations and collective self-esteem to explore their relation to gay travellers’ travel psychographics (Vorobjovas-Pinta and Hardy 2015).
Further, the author of this paper stated that even though many places get more acostumed to homosexuality, in many regions around the globe there are still laws enforced that make homosexuality an illegal act. Around the Muslim society, there are four countries that punish gay act between men by death, further ten regimes threaten queers with inprisionment.
In addition, it was claimed that potential risks within the gay travel market does not only affect the destination choice but also the behaviour of LGBT+ travellers. Participants of the interview carried out for this discussion mentioned that if they are in a homophobic destination they would adapt to the laws and cultures to not get punished for their sexual orientation. Burn revealed, that as a same-sex couple you can never be sure that the holiday you are booking are not leading to awkward or hostile encounters in the destination. That is why it is so important to provide a genuine gay-friendly service as a tour operator (Burn, 2015)
The accessible literature around the topic of ‘gay travel’ needs more improvement and contains a lack of relevant and modern information. However, the author was still able to deliver a well-structured discussion paper with significant information around the challenges that the gay travel industry faces today and possibly in the future.
The literature about LGBT tourism definitely need more research an relevant content. The literature given only provides outdated information, which to some extent is not relevant anymore nowadays. Nonetheless, the author was capable to demonstrate a paper with rich information about the impact of homophobia on the gay travel market.
Burn, D., (2016) New gay travel firm increases holiday choice for LGBT travellers. London: The Guardian. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/feb/16/gay-travel-lgbt-holidays-cultural-acceptance
[Accessed: 4th May 2018]
Vorobjovas-Pinta, O., and Hardy, A. (2015) The evolution of gay travel research. International Journal of Tourism Research 18(4).