NEW YORK—Leading digital travel platform Booking.com released new research revealing that more than half (61 percent) of LGBTQ+ travelers have experienced some form of discrimination when traveling. Conducted with 3,052 LGBTQ+ travelers across three continents, the new study shines a light on attitudes, concerns and travel preferences, as well as past stay experiences, current realities and hopes for a more inclusive travel future.
LGBTQ+ Travel Today
According to the research, 70 percent say they have to consider their safety and wellbeing as an LGBTQ+ traveler when picking a destination and over half (60 percent) believe that traveling as part of the LGBTQ+ community means that some destinations are off limits. These extra considerations for LGBTQ+ people extend across the entire planning and travel journey for more than half of those surveyed:
- 62 percent believe being LGBTQ+ impacts the decisions they make when planning a trip, with 56 percent saying that it has affected their destination bucket list.
- Over half (62 percent) report that being LGTBQ+ impacts who they choose to travel with.
- 63 percent indicate that traveling as an LGTBQ+ person impacts how they behave with their significant other when traveling together.
- Over half (64 percent) believe being LGTBQ+ impacts how they present themselves during their trip (e.g. clothing, makeup choices, etc).
While these insights expose the concerns that weigh on many LGBTQ+ travelers’ minds, often before they’ve even booked a single aspect of their trip or arrived at their destination, there are also more promising signs and green shoots of progress in the industry. A total of 87 percent of LGTBQ+ travelers surveyed believe that the majority of the travel experiences they’ve had so far have been welcoming. Despite the barriers and challenges that remain, this underscores an underlying optimism amongst LGBTQ+ travelers and a growing opportunity for the travel industry to do even better to create more welcoming experiences for everyone.
Spotlight on the Stay
Central to their wider travel experience, according to the research, LGBTQ+ travelers report having had a mix of welcoming and awkward encounters when it comes to the accommodation experience during their trips. In fact, almost two-thirds (63 percent) have had less-than-welcoming or uncomfortable experiences at a property where they were staying, including:
- One in five (20 percent) have had staff assume they would need separate rooms or beds when checking in as a couple.
- 27 percent have felt the need to change their behavior—and 20 percent to change their appearance—to avoid judgement or awkward interactions with accommodation staff or owners.
- 25 percent have experienced staff or accommodation owners at check-in incorrectly assuming their relationship to their travel companion/companions.
- 22 percent have experienced unwelcoming or uncomfortable experiences while dining at hotel or accommodation restaurants.
- 24 percent have felt uncomfortable to ask for LGTBQ+ friendly local tips or recommendations.
- Accommodation staff or owners have mistaken or incorrectly assumed pronouns or gender for 16 percent of travelers in correspondence ahead of arrival and for 18 percent of those when arriving at the desk.
- Interactions with other guests account for the most often reported source of less-than-welcoming or uncomfortable experiences, reported by nearly a quarter of those surveyed (26 percent).
Despite these negative experiences, it’s heartening to see that over half of LGTBQ+ travelers have felt welcomed most of the time (51 percent) during their stays, with those surveyed highlighting that interactions with staff throughout their stay (50 percent) and the check-in experience (46 percent) are the most important factors in creating a comfortable, welcoming stay. Other positive accommodation experiences revealed by the research include:
- Roughly one in three (39 percent) have experienced a great first impression on arrival such as welcome drinks and/or friendly staff.
- Over a third (34 percent) have had friendly and informative correspondence with the property ahead of arrival/check-in.
- 33 percent have received guidance/information to the local area during their stay, with 28 percent being offered this at check-in.
- 27 percent have been offered LGBTQ+ specific advice or guidance on the area during their stay, with almost one in five (24 percent) receiving this at the time of check-in.
More Welcoming Stays for Everyone
As evidenced by this research with LGBTQ+ travelers, and despite some positive signals, a substantial portion of the global population doesn’t feel like they can show up as themselves when they travel. Booking.com believes this presents the industry with a real opportunity to make the travel experience easier, more inclusive, and more welcoming for LGBTQ+ travelers – and ultimately for everyone.
To that end, Booking.com is announcing its Proud Hospitality training program for its accommodation partners. The core of the Travel Proud initiative and the first step for an accommodation provider to become a Proud Certified property on the Booking.com platform is a 75-minute online Proud Hospitality training session that the company has developed in partnership with HospitableMe.
Focusing on the unique challenges and barriers that the LGBTQ+ community faces when traveling, the goal of the training is to help hospitality professionals see things from a potentially different perspective and provide some practical skills and techniques that they can immediately put into practice. After completing the online course and making a commitment to deliver a more inclusive experience, Proud Certified partners will receive a Travel Proud badge on their property page to show potential guests that they can rely on a welcoming experience. Cities with multiple Proud Certified properties will also be showcased on a designated Travel Proud page, where travelers can learn more about the initiative, as well as find and book properties that are Proud Certified.
“Everything we do at Booking.com is about enabling smoother and more enjoyable travel experiences for everyone—no matter where they come from, who they love or how they identify,” said Arjan Dijk, CMO and Senior Vice President at Booking.com. “As a gay traveler myself, I share some of these same concerns, but also equal amounts of optimism for a better future. One in five LGBTQ+ travelers say they are hopeful about being able to travel without restrictions or limitations in the next five years. We firmly believe we can get there together and that everyone should be able to experience the world as themselves, always.”
The training is available free of charge to Booking.com property partners and includes access to additional resources, such as a Travel Proud Customer Toolkit, which Proud Certified properties are encouraged to make available to all guest-facing staff, so that they can confidently answer questions and support LGBTQ+ travelers more fully.
The program is now available in English and rolling out to partners in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, with new territories and languages being added over the course of 2021 and into 2022.