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Booking.com reveals the contrasting world of caution and confidence for LGBTQ+ travellers across Asia Pacific in 2023

The most extensive LGBTQ+ travel research from Booking.com to date spotlights the rising concerns surrounding personal safety and how active allyship in the travel industry contributes to increasing traveller confidence amongst APAC-based travellers.

SINGAPORE – With a mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, regardless of who they love or how they identify, Booking.com’s most extensive LGBTQ+ travel research to date spotlights the steady progress, as well as the recent setbacks, for these communities when it comes to travel. Despite the travel industry’s growing recognition of the scope and variety of LGBTQ+ experiences, many travellers today still face enormous challenges. With a background of polarising political decisions in the past 12 months, personal safety has never been more of a focus, with four in five (83%) LGBTQ+ travellers reporting that they must consider their safety and wellbeing as an LGBTQ+ person when picking a destination – up significantly from 66% last year.

Conducted amongst 11,555 LGBTQ+ travellers across 27 countries and territories around the world, the extensive study shows that mainstream news – from issues around recent major world sporting and music events to celebrity and corporate sponsorships – has put discriminatory legislation and views in the spotlight for many, impacting considerations around vacation decisions. Nearly three quarters (73%) of respondents admit that controversy in the news around attitudes, discrimination and violence towards people who identify as LGBTQ+ has had a big impact on their choice of destination, with LGBTQ+ travellers from Australia (84%), Hong Kong (82%) and the US (79%) indicating that they are the most cautious.

A regressive revolution

This step backwards means that personal safety is now an increased point of discussion for LGBTQ+ people when planning travel, particularly amongst those who are transgender. Worldwide, there are still 64 countries that criminalise same-sex relationships – including 11 where the death penalty can be imposed – meaning destinations like these are out of the question for the majority of LGBTQ+ travellers, despite some playing host to major global events. Nearly two thirds (68%) of LGBTQ+ travellers say that some destinations are completely off-limits, following a disproportionately higher rate of discrimination and violence in these destinations. Even after booking trips, travellers remain vigilant, with nearly half (49%) having cancelled a trip in the past year after seeing a destination not supporting those who identify as LGBTQ+.

Discrimination remains a key concern across the entire travel experience, with the majority (61%) of respondents having experienced discrimination when travelling. Out of all LGBTQ+ travellers:

  • 30% reveal that they have been subjected to stereotyping
  • One in five (22%) say they have been stared at, laughed at or verbally abused by other travellers.
  • A similar number (21%) share that they have faced the same but by locals at their travel destination
  • While 15% report that they have been threatened or intimidated by local law enforcement

While travelling can instil a sense of freedom and self-expression, a significant proportion of LGBTQ+ people still feel restricted. Over a third (34%) have felt that they need to change their behaviour to avoid judgement or awkward interactions with others (up from 24% in 2022), while 28% have felt they need to change their appearance to avoid the same (up from 18% in 2022). This affects the younger generation the most, with 40% of Gen Z LGBTQ+ travellers feeling they need to change their behaviour and 32% feeling the need to change their appearance globally.

Even travelling to destinations where they feel there is adequate legislation to protect their rights, a proportion of LGBTQ+ travellers still feel uneasy across the entire trip experience – especially versus those destinations with less than adequate legislation.

Transforming caution into confidence

While personal safety concerns have a key impact on destination choices for LGBTQ+ communities at large (40%), other key motivations for travel play a very strong role, with beautiful natural scenery (48%), tasty local cuisine (47%) and great beaches (35%) rounding out the top elements that have the greatest impact on destination choices.

Despite the headlines and significant challenges that persist in many destinations, 78% feel that their experience of being LGBTQ+ actually makes them more confident as a traveller (up from 69% in 2022). It’s also refreshing that, when it comes to experiences on vacation, 85% of LGBTQ+ travellers feel confident to partake in any activities they want. The majority of LGBTQ+ travellers (74%) are more likely to seek out attractions and activities that are tailored to people identifying as LGBTQ+. For example, Booking.com has a range of LGBTQ+ specific activities available to travellers around the world, from guided walks around the vibrant streets of Asakusa and 2-Chome in Tokyo to an informative tour in New York documenting how LGBTQ+ communities have helped shape the Chelsea district into the thriving urban neighbourhood that it is today.

Positive travel experiences are proving far more common too and, no doubt, increasing the confidence of LGBTQ+ communities. Over four fifths (84%) of LGBTQ+ travellers say they have experienced some form of positive interaction, and specifically when it comes to those interactions with places to stay:

  • 44% have had friendly and informative correspondence with the accommodation ahead of arrival (up from 25% in 2022)
  • 47% of travellers say they have had great first impressions on arrival such as welcome drinks and friendly staff (up from 31% in 2022)
Active allyship in the travel industry

The travel industry is clearly playing a part in shifting attitudes and perceptions. More than four fifths (84%) of LGBTQ+ travellers feel more comfortable travelling due to the increased inclusivity of the travel industry. What’s more, 82% of LGBTQ+ travellers actively enjoy the experience of booking trips – only 5% less than Booking.com’s Travel Trends research which spoke to all travellers.

Still, the research shows there’s much more to be done to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ travellers. While guidance and information on the local area at check-in is common (42%), being offered LGBTQ+ specific guidance is much less frequent, with only 21% having experienced this. One third (39%) would like to receive information on the LGBTQ+ status of the location, such as local laws, religious sensibilities and tips on where to go to be safe.

There is a clear need for travel companies to show up as allies to implement policies that are inclusive and welcoming for LGBTQ+ travellers:

  • 74% research travel brands and experiences before they travel to understand the role they play in supporting people who identify as LGBTQ+
  • 75% say they are more likely to book travel and experiences with brands who are LGBTQ+ owned than those who are not (up from 62% in 2022) with queer (73%) and pansexual (71%) travellers more likely to do so
  • 79% agree that they are more likely to favour airlines and brands with inclusive policies (e.g. gender neutral uniforms), rising to 86% for transmasculine and 83% for transfeminine travellers

Since launching in 2021, Booking.com’s Travel Proud program provides free inclusive hospitality training for accommodations to help them gain a better understanding of the specific challenges faced by LGBTQ+ travellers, as well as what can be done to make every guest feel more welcome, regardless of where they come from, who they love or how they identify. The training is now available in English, Italian, French, Spanish, Brazilian, Portuguese and German, with training sessions available in all languages at least once a week. There are now more than 24,000 certified properties globally on Booking.com, with welcoming Travel Proud stays available in 118 countries and territories and over 7,030 cities.

“In a world of increasing contradictions and instability, it’s no surprise that the LGBTQ+ travellers of today are simultaneously more cautious and more confident,” says Laura Houldsworth, Managing Director of Asia-Pacific at Booking.com. “We understand how the extra thought and consideration going into ensuring the safety and well-being of our LGBTQ+ counterparts can create an inclusive and affirming environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and accepted for who they are. At Booking.com, we believe that everyone should be able to experience the world as themselves, always. While visibility, understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people has come a long way in recent years, we can’t take that progress for granted. The travel industry should strive to be a beacon of inclusion, helping foster an environment where everyone can flourish and thrive, whether exploring closer to home or travelling to the other side of the world.”

Co-Founder & Managing Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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