In a world that’s more connected and inclusive than ever, LGBTQIA+ tourism is carving a distinct niche in the travel landscape, offering a burgeoning market rife with potential. A fresh generation of queer explorers is setting out, armed with increased awareness, rights, and often, a heftier disposable income. A recent study by Globetrender, a premier UK travel trend forecaster, has spotlighted eight innovative trends that are shaping queer travel’s future, from “Queer Famly Travel” to the allure of “Pride Power”.
The spending power of the queer community in the realm of travel is anticipated to skyrocket to an impressive $568.5 billion by 2030, propelled by an uptick in those identifying as LGBTQ+. This trend is particularly striking among the youth: per the UK’s 2021 census data, 6.9% of Generation Z affiliates with LGBTQIA+, as opposed to 3.5% of Millennials and just 1.6% of the Baby Boomer cohort.
As inclusivity and representation take centre stage in our media-centric age, tourism emerges as a crucial arena for championing rights and opportunities. How then are the travel narratives for queer tourists transforming? And which emergent trends are already charting new courses on the global tourism atlas? Dive deeper to find out.
“Queer family travel”. Queer families on the move: a pioneering generation
As laws gradually yet persistently shift towards LGBTQ+ inclusion, queer families are becoming more visible and accepted, particularly in progressive nations such as the UK and Sweden. However, rights like assisted reproduction and adoption for same-sex couples have only recently been established. For instance, it was only in 2020 that Finland witnessed its first adoptions by same-sex couples.
This legislative and cultural shift has empowered Millennials and subsequent generations to seriously contemplate parenthood. Yet, when it comes to travelling, queer families have to be especially discerning about their destinations, seeking to sidestep homophobia and ensure safety for every family member. Countries like Greece, Costa Rica, Portugal, and Mexico are emerging as welcoming havens for queer families.
Specialised travel agencies, like Quiiky Travel, are stepping up to curate safe and inclusive itineraries, providing guidance on local laws and requisite documentation, especially in higher-risk destinations.
“Limelight Gaycation”. Media’s impact on LGBTQ+ travel choices
As the media amplifies its positive portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community, TV series and movies are evolving into powerful inspirations for travel decisions. A 2023 poll indicated that a notable 64% of travellers found their destination preferences shaped by on-screen visuals or media narratives.
For instance, “The White Lotus“, with settings spanning from Hawaii to Sicily, has triggered a significant uptick in reservations to these locales. Likewise, the Italian backdrop of “Call Me by Your Name” remains a beacon for LGBTQ+ travellers.
As we move forward, the inclination to select travel destinations influenced by media content is set to intensify, paving the way for both travellers and the tourism sector to capitalise on the surge of “Limelight Gaycations”.
“Community Gateways”: community-based travel responding to the craving for genuine connections
In our digital-dominated age, a significant portion of the LGBTQIA+ community often feels the absence of a close-knit queer network with whom to share moments and navigate mutual challenges. While there’s no shortage of dating platforms, many are veering away from these digital hubs, disillusioned by the fleeting nature of online engagements. This palpable hunger for genuine human connection is spurring the evolution of group travels curated specifically for the LGBTQ+ audience.
These “Community Gateways” span from exclusive gay cruises to resort retreats, but there’s a burgeoning appetite for more adventurous escapades. Influencer and writer, Calum McSwiggan, has announced a Costa Rica expedition slated for September 2023, in collaboration with TrovaTrip, aimed at LGBTQ+ individuals eager for secure travel experiences. Trailblazers like Moonlight Experiences and Pride Sailing Holidays are also championing this rising tide of “communal tourism”.
For both the broader tourism sector and queer entrepreneurs, this shift presents a thrilling frontier.
“Put A Ring On It Trips”: the rise of queer romantic tourism
In an evolving global environment where acceptance and celebration of diverse love stories are gaining momentum, the acknowledgment of same-sex marriages stands out prominently. Today, 34 countries have opened their arms to the legal recognition of such unions, laying the foundation for a powerful socio-cultural shift. This evolution is not just a testament to legal progress but has also sparked a notable trend in queer couples seeking unique, romantic experiences beyond their home turf.
The 2021 data from the UK provides an insightful window into this trend: England and Wales reported a combined total of 268,522 same-sex marriages. Cross the Atlantic, and the figures are equally compelling; by the end of 2020, the United States documented that around 1.5 million LGBTQ+ individuals had formalized their commitment to a same-sex partner through marriage.
These numbers hint at a broader narrative. Beyond the ceremonies and the legalities, there lies the heartfelt desire of couples to explore, celebrate, and perhaps even challenge boundaries. This often translates to queer couples choosing picturesque, culturally rich, or historically significant destinations for their weddings, engagements, or honeymoons. Given this trajectory, the next few years are set to be transformational. We can anticipate not only a spike in destination weddings and romantic getaways but also a more profound embracing of diversity in love and commitment across the global tourism landscape.
The nexus between technology and inclusivity is weaving an intriguing narrative in the travel domain. For the LGBTQ+ community, often contending with moments of stress in situations like passport verifications or hotel check-ins, this merger holds particular significance.
Take for instance, the Yotel in New York. Located near the bustling Times Square, the establishment has been synonymous with cutting-edge tech since its inception. Its lobby is graced by a robotic arm, which captivates both guests and curious onlookers, offering a fully automated luggage storage solution. Halfway around the world, in Nagasaki, Japan, the Henn-na Hotel has etched its name in history as the world’s first hotel staffed with robots. These robots not only manage reception duties but also serve as information hubs for guests. Interactions are facilitated through biometric recognition and straightforward dialogue.
By adopting solutions like these, termed “Gay-I Interfaces”, the travel industry isn’t merely dodging potential biases. It’s pioneering a democratised travel ethos, where processes are seamless, interactive, and above all, inclusive. The future is unfolding, and it promises inclusivity powered by innovation.
“Rainbow Rebellions”: venturing beyond boundaries
The travel landscape is witnessing a transformative trend as an increasing number of LGBTQ+ travellers venture into areas traditionally perceived as less hospitable to the queer community. This bold move, challenging established norms and local prejudices, has been aptly coined “Rainbow Rebellion”.
This trend underscores a divide among travellers: some are daring trailblazers, willing to traverse potentially challenging terrains either as a bold statement or for deeply personal endeavours. Conversely, there are those who prioritize safety and familiarity, gravitating towards destinations known for their inclusivity. This emerging paradigm not only underscores crucial safety and ethical considerations but also signifies a broader cultural evolution in motion.
“Pride Power” as event tourism
A standout trend in the world of LGBTQ+ tourism is the rise of “Pride Power”. This movement witnesses an escalating count of both LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies jet-setting across the globe to immerse themselves in Pride parades and related festivities. Following a hiatus caused by the pandemic, 2023 marked a triumphant return of these vibrant events. Beyond mere celebration, there’s also a significant economic dimension to this resurgence. Data from Airbnb indicates that during the 2022 Pride festivities, hosts raked in a collective sum exceeding 77 million dollars.
Another noteworthy development is the shifting focus towards inclusive language. Citing Kit Williamson, an established Airbnb host, the employment of inclusive language in property listings has seen an uptick of 90% since 2017. This underlines the transformative global mindset towards embracing diversity, and it dovetails with a broader pattern where LGBTQ+ tourists are increasingly drawn to Pride-centric experiences while travelling.
As the world gears up for the 60th commemoration of the Stonewall riots in 2029, the anticipation is palpable. Pride events are forecasted to be larger and more resonant than ever, potentially heralding a transformative phase in LGBTQ+ tourism as an unprecedented number of enthusiasts make early travel plans to join these momentous celebrations.
“Poly Days”: how polyamory is transforming tourism
The modern relationship landscape is changing, with polyamory – an ethical, consensual form of non-monogamy where individuals maintain romantic ties with multiple partners – making significant waves in the travel industry. This shift, aligning with the evolving “sharing economy” of travel, is redefining our views on love, kinship, and partnerships.
Although polyamory isn’t a new relationship model, its growing acceptance is carving a niche in tourism. A 2021 report by the BBC pointed out that relationships encompassing multiple partners are gaining traction and transitioning into the mainstream. It’s noteworthy that while this trend is broad-based, the LGBTQ+ community is pioneering these relational evolutions.
This contemporary relationship trend is leaving its mark on travel behaviours. When a “throuple” – a trio in a relationship – sets off on a getaway, it’s been endearingly termed a “PolyDay” by outlets like Globetrender. In 2021, Newsweek highlighted that roughly one in nine Americans have experienced a polyamorous relationship, and one in six are open to the idea. This burgeoning interest is evident with a whopping 500% increase in “polyamory” searches in 2022, data courtesy of the dating app, Feeld.
With these shifts, it’s paramount for the travel industry to adapt. It involves abandoning preconceived notions about relationships and ensuring that hospitality teams are trained to receive all guests, regardless of their relational structures. London’s Shangri-La at the Shard Hotel sets a commendable standard, offering amenities like three pillows and bathrobes specifically for a throuple’s stay.
However, as Arthur Tam discussed in a 2023 article for The Times, there are hurdles to cross. Travelling in groups like throuples can offer cost-sharing benefits, yet many accommodation facilities might not be tailored to suit their unique needs.
Peering into the future, polyamory’s presence in mainstream media seems promising. Channel 4 in the UK is venturing into uncharted territory with a show akin to “Love Island”, titled “Finding the Ones”, taking cues from the famed boxer David Haye’s triad relationships.