91% of Indian LGBTQ+ travellers consider personal safety as paramount while choosing a destination: Booking.com
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, divisive political decisions from the past year have hindered efforts to eliminate challenges and prioritize safety. Now in its third year the survey highlighted that 91% of Indian LGBTQ+ travellers report that they must consider their personal safety and well-being when choosing a destination (a significant increase from 70% last year). This concern is particularly high among intersex (90%), genderfluid (90%), transfeminine (89%), and transmasculine (87%) travellers.
The study reveals that mainstream news, including stories about current major international sporting and musical events as well as celebrity and corporate sponsorships, has brought discriminatory laws and viewpoints into the public eye for many, influencing decisions about where to travel. Nearly 78% of Indian respondents acknowledge that news stories about attitudes, discrimination and violence towards people who identify as LGBTQ+ have had a significant influence on their decision about where to travel.
A Regressive Revolution
The LGBTQ+ community is yet to experience the adage-travel has no boundaries, as there are still 64 countries that criminalize same-sex relationships, with 11 nations levying the death penalty on them. An overwhelming 80% of respondents in India asserted that such destinations are entirely off their radar. Even after booking their trips, LGBTQ+ travellers in India remain vigilant, with 62% of LGBTQ+ individuals and 63% of transgender people having cancelled a trip in the past year after seeing a destination not supporting those who identify as LGBTQ+. This rearward approach questions the personal safety of the community when planning a voyage.
The next major issue that makes travelling uncomfortable and stressful for them is the pervasive discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ individuals throughout the entire expedition. Going by the survey results, a majority of respondents, 79%, reported facing discrimination, and the figures rose to 86% for transfeminine and 83% for transmasculine travellers.
• 33% of respondents have experienced stereotyping.
• 29% of LGBTQ+ travellers have been gazed at, giggled at, or verbally abused by fellow wanderers.
• 27% of respondents have been threatened or unnerved by local law enforcement.
Although travel is often associated with freedom and self-expression, several LGBTQ+ members still feel constrained. Around 44% have felt the necessity to adjust their behaviour to avoid judgement or awkward encounters, marking an increase from 37% in 2022. Additionally, 36% felt compelled to alter their appearance for the same reason, up from 29% in 2022. This pressure is most common among young LGBTQ+ visitors, who often succumb to the pressure.
Transforming Caution into Confidence:
Apart from personal safety, other key motivators like breath-taking natural scenery (54%), delectable local cuisine (41%) and pristine beaches (48%), also play a very strong role for the LGBTQ+ community when shortlisting destinations.
Remarkably, despite the hurdles, 90% of LGBTQ+ respondents (as against 72% in 2022), find their identity actually makes them more confident as a traveller. When it comes to experiences on a holiday, 89% of LGBTQ+ members feel confident when engaging in any activities they want, with an overwhelming majority (87%) like to seek out attractions and activities that are tailored to people identifying as LGBTQ+.
Positive travel experiences continue to uplift LGBTQ+ communities. An overwhelming 97% of LGBTQ+ travellers have encountered delightful interactions during their stays. Furthermore, 58% have enjoyed positive pre-arrival communication with the accommodation and 51% have had excellent experiences upon arrival (an impressive increase from 26% in 2022)
Building an Inclusive Community
The travel industry is clearly playing a part in shifting attitudes and perceptions. An overwhelming 91% of LGBTQ+ travellers India feel more comfortable travelling due to the increased inclusivity in the travel industry and 87% of genderfluid or genderqueer sightseers now feel more comfortable.
However, despite the progress, significant work is still required to cater to the needs of LGBTQ+ travellers. This is especially the case when it comes to receiving LGBTQ+ specific guidance which is less frequent – for instance, 40% of respondents desired more details on the LGBTQ+ status of their destination, local laws, religious sensitivities, and safety tips.
For this, travel companies have a vital role as allies by implementing inclusive policies and fostering welcoming environments for LGBTQ+ wanderers. According to the survey,
• 85% of Indian respondents prefer airlines and brands with inclusive policies, including gender-neutral uniforms.
• Additionally, 86% of Indian respondents (compared to 72% last year), are more inclined to book with LGBTQ+ owned brands.
Booking.com introduced its Travel Proud program in 2021, providing complimentary inclusive hospitality training for accommodations. It aims to enhance awareness of the unique obstacles LGBTQ+ travellers encounter and foster a welcoming atmosphere, irrespective of nationality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Arjan Dijk, CMO and Senior Vice President, Booking.com, said, “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. 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 traveling to the other side of the world.”