Jun 30, 2021
LGBTQ+ Travelers Pack Their Suitcases, Leading the Travel Industry Rebound
By Sarah Netter
As travel picks up again, LGBTQ+ voyagers are looking for safe destinations to visit.
Lola Méndez, a frequent traveler who visited 64 countries in five years, had been grounded by Covid-19 for 14 months. Now comfortable with resuming travel, she chose her first post-pandemic trip very carefully.
“I’m fully vaccinated… and decided to go to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico as it’s the ‘queer capital of Mexico,’” says Méndez, a 31-year-old journalist based in Florida. “It is on the beach, close to nature, extremely vegan-friendly, and has had an effective Covid-19 response.”
LGBTQ+ community leads in post-pandemic travel
LGBTQ+ travelers have historically led the way for leisure travel, and post-pandemic life is no exception. “Gays lead and the rest follow,” Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Travel Association, told the National LGBT Media Association recently.
“They travel more and spend more when they travel,” Dow says. “They’re the darlings of the travel industry.”
LGBTQ+ adults reported taking an average of 3.6 leisure trips in the past year compared with 2.3 trips taken by non-LGBTQ+ adults, according to a 2020 report by the Harris Poll.
And they have been anxiously awaiting the chance to dust off their suitcases—more than 75% of respondents were ready to vacation again, according to a Consumer Marketing Insights (CMI) survey on post-Covid-19 LGBTQ+ travel.
Covid-19 was “devastating” for Out Adventures, a LGBTQ+ tour company based in Ontario, Canada.
“We went from our best year ever to cutting our staff by 75%,” said owner Robert Sharp. “We are lucky that our clients are extremely loyal, and that LGBTQ+ travelers are often among the first to start traveling after times of global or economic uncertainty.”
After a gut-wrenching 15 months without running a tour, business is now picking back up. Not only did most of the company’s guests choose to keep their deposits, they are now rebooking, Sharp says, and Out Adventures began seeing a spike in inquiries and new bookings once vaccines began rolling out in the U.S.
“At this point in time, 2022 is set to be our best year ever with about 20% more sales than what was forecasted for 2020,” he says, adding that U.S. customers make up about 75% of the company’s clientele.
Travelers are still exercising caution
But travelers are taking precautions. Road trips are looking more popular than flights — 86% prefer the former while 27% prefer the latter, according to CMI. And people are looking to book smaller accommodations to cut down on the chances of large crowds, with 35% saying they’d prefer a small hotel with minimal or no public areas, 34% looking to book an AirBnb or Vrbo rental and 33% opting to stay with family and friends.
“Most of our clients are travelling domestically right now, with very few interested in international destinations in the short term,” Sharp says. “Those who are interested in international travel are looking at destinations that have managed the pandemic well, and who are allowing vaccinated travelers, such as Iceland.”
LGBTQ+ travelers have their own set of priorities, out of both preference and necessity. LGBTQ+ friendliness (80%) and safety (74%) rank among the top considerations when picking a travel destination, according to the most recent CMI Annual LGBTQ Tourism & Hospitality Survey.
LGBTQ+ acceptance is key
Other top-ranked priorities? Destinations that offer natural beauty (80%), diverse ethnic and cultural experiences (68%), and lower travel costs (62%).
Méndez had booked a 6-day trip to Uruguay to visit family when Covid-19 lockdowns started happening in quick succession around the world. She chose to stay put with her family and her girlfriend in Uruguay, since that country boasts extensive LGBTQ+ protections.
Now that she’s back to traveling, LGBTQ+ acceptance is a top priority.
“I’m traveling as an out pansexual woman for the first time and am now considering how queer-friendly a destination is for my safety,” Méndez says, adding that she also researches crimes against the LGBTQ+ community. “I like to stay in one place for a few months so I do look for conveniences like vegan food and decent WiFi.”
Méndez plans to keep travelling around Mexico and has already booked trips for Oaxaca in October and Mexico City in November.
Sharp, who is gay, also touted the importance of LGBTQ+ acceptance while traveling, both for safety reasons and peace of mind.
“As LGBTQ+ people, we don’t come out once in our life. We come out in new jobs, when we meet people, and every day when we’re on vacation, which is why the LGBTQ+ travel industry exists,” he says. “We want to get away from it all, just like everyone else, without having to spend most of our holidays navigating the safety of a destination, or how welcoming hotels and travel providers are.”
“Professionals in the LGBTQ+ travel industry make it possible for their guests to relax, enjoy their holiday, and know that they are well taken care of,” he added.
Post-Covid LGBTQ+ travel tips
While many are excited to vacation for the first time in more than a year, there are a few Covid-19-specific considerations.
“The ever changing landscape of entry restrictions is complicated,” Sharp says. “It is a moving target for most countries, so what we see today could be different in a month or two, which is why anyone planning travel right now should do so with flexibility in mind”
Other tips include booking refundable or flexible fares or vacation packages, and buying travel insurance to cover the costs of a potential medical emergency or cancellation.
TravelPulse.com has a list of top post-Covid-19 LGBTQ+ destinations for those needing a bit of inspiration. They include:
- Palm Springs, California
- New York City
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Provincetown, Massachusetts
- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- San Francisco, California
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Los Cabos and Cancun, Mexico
- Las Vegas, Nevada
Vaccinations are helping to make inroads against Covid-19, but the pandemic is still a top concern in many destinations. Whether or not you identify as LGBTQ+, it’s important to take precautions and travel safely this summer.
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