Global panel addresses how to appeal to LGBTQ+ travellers | The Planner

On 3 April 2023, WTM Africa hosted an Equal Africa panel discussion on the unique challenges that LGBTQ+ travellers face, and how addressing these presents new marketing opportunities for destinations. LoAnn Halden, the Vice President of Communications at IGLTA (International LGBTQ+ Travel Association), guided the discussion, which included speakers from Kenya, South Africa, Spain and the USA.

Several interesting considerations were raised, which include the following:

Safety is, understandably, a concern

Probably the biggest concern that LGBTQ+ travellers have when travelling is: ‘Will I be safe?’

This is even more so for those travelling for business, who may not have a choice in the destination they are going to, and may not feel comfortable discussing their sexual identity with their employer.

While many countries have progressive laws and attitudes towards these travellers, others criminalise them. Rodney Otieno, the co-founder of the Queer & Allied Chamber of Commerce Africa (QACC Africa), notes that Uganda’s recent decision to criminalise LGBTQ+ individuals is a step backwards.

“It’s important to ensure that your policies are inclusive and that your staff receive proper diversity training to assist with this.”

He noted that African countries that have inclusive policies also have an opportunity to promote their country as a safe and comfortable place for LGBTQ+ travellers, adding it’s important to make these travellers feel safe and welcome. To achieve this, “It’s important to ensure that your policies are inclusive and that your staff receive proper diversity training to assist with this.”

RELATED: 4 Challenges LGBQT+ travellers face – and how to address them through diligent duty of care

A global accredited LGBTQ+ standard exists

With safety being a key concern, having a reputable and recognised form of accreditation for being an LGBTQ+ friendly accommodation establishment can make a huge difference. Fortunately, the IGLTA has such an accreditation programme.

To become IGLTA Accredited™, an establishment is independently audited and needs to provide evidence of satisfying 8 criteria assessment:

  1. Publicly displayed non-discrimination policy or customer charter
  2. Staff LGBTQ+ sexual orientation and non-discrimination policy
  3. Complaints, whistleblowing and watchdog procedures
  4. LGBTQIA+ customer champion
  5. LGBTQ+ community support
  6. LGBTQ+ inclusive marketing and communications
  7. Third party references
  8. Diversity and sensitivity training

Michael Gladwin, founder of Afrigay Travel, says, “The accreditation gives travellers the surety that the company they are supporting has really done the deep work to ensure they are fully inclusive.”

Find out more about the accreditation programme here.

Embrace the diversity of LGBTQ+

Very Well Mind explains, “LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or sometimes questioning), and others. The “plus” represents other sexual identities.”

As such, Michael highlighted the incredible diversity of this community, explaining that it encompasses a wide range of individuals with varying identities, experiences, and backgrounds. He said, “It is important to recognise and celebrate this diversity, as it helps to create a more inclusive and supportive community for all LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Adding to this, social entrepreneur Mandima Qunta emphasized the importance of including minorities in LGBTQ+ marketing efforts. She noted that there is a hierarchy of access within the gay community, which tends to prioritise gay men, while others – such as queer black women – who may not have a large online presence are often not considered. “We must look beyond this limited perspective to truly collaborate with the community,” she said, adding, “We are never going to effect change if we only reach out to the same people.”

Takeaway: LGBTQ+ is not a single identity, and your marketing message needs to be more nuanced to address the different needs within this demographic.

The ‘small’ things can have a big impact

Qunta noted a small change that every business can make today, which costs nothing yet can make a huge difference, is being sensitive about different pronouns. “Pronouns matter because they are a form of welcome. When someone asks my pronoun, it feels like they are trying to get to know me, and it’s showing some form of respect. The language that we use can be an important part of making a traveller feel safe in a space,” she said.

She also highlighted another positive starting point for those addressing transformation is to introduce gender neutral bathrooms.