LGBT Tourism: trends and destinations

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

LGBT is an acronym used to refer to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. The World Tourism Organization, in co-operation with the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), has conducted two global studies on LGBT tourism. The first one UNWTO Global Report on LGBT Tourism was published in 2012, the second one in 2017.


Both studies are available in English for free download. These are substantial documents, especially the UNWTO‘s second Global Report on LGBT Tourism, to which we refer only to share with you the definition of LGBT tourism edited by IGLTA and the recommendations it provides to LGBT travelers, to travel agents and tour operator.

We will show you then the main evidences of a Bocconi University survey presented at the 2017 edition of the International Tourism Exchange (BIT), a report by Lanfranchi Editore presented at the 53rd edition of TTG Incontri, and a recent poll LGBT Tourism & Hospitality by Community Marketing & Insights.

LGBT Tourism, a definition

Let’s start with the definition of LGBT tourism coined by IGLTA. LGBT tourism consists of the development and marketing of tourism products and services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Some of these products and services are specifically designed for LGTB travelers. In other cases, industry operators are working to ensure that those products and services (destinations, accommodations, etc.) are synonymous with hospitality and respect.

LGBT Tourism, IGLTA recommendations

Hospitality and respect, unfortunately, are not guaranteed in all countries around the world. And even in those where there are specific laws protecting LGBT people, hospitality and respect are not always “distributed” in equal measure across all territories. That is why IGLTA invites LGTB travelers to become aware and respect the laws and customs of the countries they intend to reach.

Respecting the laws and customs of a country is an invitation that is valid for everyone. In case of LGBT travelers – we are sorry to write it – the non-compliance with these laws can lead to even tragic consequences.

The same recommendations are addressed to you: you need to know, and make aware your LGBT clients, about the laws and customs of the destinations, and to ensure yourself that an accommodation, an excursion and any other product and service respect the sexual identities (and not only) of the final clients.

IGLTA recommends LGBT travelers to take note of all the contacts of the reference embassies. You can help them in this and provide them with all the most useful information needed.

The Spartacus publishing group, a historic guide for LGBT travelers born in 1970, publishes yearly the Spartacus Gay Travel Index, a ranking of all the countries in the world, from the one where it is more dangerous to live and travel for LGBT people to the one more LGBT friendly.


LGBT Tourism in Europe, a Bocconi University study

Magda Antonioli Corigliano and Marianna di Salle, respectively Bocconi University’s director and coordinator of the Master in Economics of Tourism, have analyzed the EU tourism web portals with reference to LGBT tourism. The online communication strategy of tourism authorities, in fact, «can play an important role in attracting LGBT tourists».

Twenty-nine websites analyzed, because Belgium has two: one for Brussels and Wallonia, one for the Flanders region. The analysis was conducted in January 2017. Here are the main evidences:

  • 55% of websites (16 of 29) have a section or page dedicated to LGBT travelers
  • 13 websites (45%) do not have specific sections, 5 portals have no mention of LGBT travelers, while in 8 websites you can find some reference by doing a keyword search on the internal search engine
  • there is no specific reference to LGBT tourism portals of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Italy and Romania
  • there are references through key words in the websites of Belgium (the Flanders), Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Poland, Portugal and the Czech Republic
  • there is a LGBT thematic section or page in the portals of Austria, Belgium (Brussels and Wallonia), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Hungary

About the portals with an ad hoc section or with significant references to LGBT travelers, experts have explored the in-depth themes and suggested destinations «to understand if and how these Countries are addressing the LGBT target and on which touristic attraction drivers are leveraging».

Events and clubs / nightlife are the themes dealt more frequently. It follows the theme of food and wine. «On nearly 150 events proposed throughout Europe, the ones most directly addressed to LGBT community stand out (almost 88%). However it is not just Pride, but also events that are very different for type, content and dimension».


«In addition to the artistic and cultural festivals (linked to cinema and LGBT theater), there are sporting events, beauty contests, individual theme days in larger events (such as Gay Sunday during the Oktoberfest or the Queer Parade during the Düsseldorf Carnival) or special initiatives such as the Rainbow Ball in Austria or The Outing in Ireland», the experts highlight.

And: «There are over 300 recommended clubs on the portals taken into account, equally divided among bars, cafes and restaurants on one side and clubs, nightclubs and themed evenings on the other. These are mostly localized in gay-friendly districts or in very lively and rich business areas. Both for bars and clubs, there is a strong predominance of those targeting LGBT people in the broader sense and especially gay men».

 To attract LGBT travelers, tourism offices are not only focused on events, clubs / nightlife and food and wine but also to a lesser extent on:

  • cultural attractions
  • shopping
  • historical heritage
  • presence of gay-style neighborhoods
  • gay saunas
  • natural landscape
  • architecture and design
  • shows
  • thematic tours to discover the gay face of the destination
  • outdoor activity.

«It strikes, however, that – despite recent regulatory developments on the subject of weddings and civil unions – only two websites appear as possible honeymoon destinations and/or places to celebrate weddings. Likewise, except for sporadic references, the target of LGBT families and LGBT grandparents traveling with their grandchildren are currently quite neglected, although data on the growth trends of this demand segment underline the importance».

Regarding destinations, «tourism authorities do not only suggest the classic gay tourism destinations»,  and sometimes, they are not suggested at all, as the case of Greece, that it speaks only of Athens with reference to the target LGBT. «The thematic sections of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Spain and France are rich in travel ideas to discover the whole territory beyond the capital and the most important cities».


What makes a country a LGBT friendly tourist destination

Corigliano and Salle also provided a list of factors that make a country a friendly LGBT tourist destination. Factors that move from articles and reports published in academic and sector journals. Here they are:

  • open mind, acceptance and respect by the local community
  • full defense of human rights
  • legislation in favor of LGBT people and against any form of discrimination
  • security
  • presence of a large and well-known local LGBT community
  • inclusive communication, that is a communication that it is not limited to LGBT people in ad hoc campaigns, but included in those mainstream
  • presence of LGBT tourists
  • presence of LGBT friendly structures, dedicated events and a dynamic nightlife.

LGBT tourists, a report by Lanfranco Editore

 Let so see now the main evidence of LGBT tourists conducted in 2016 by Lanfranco Editore through 500 international interviews online with a special focus on Italy and presented at TTG Incontri.

Technologists with good spending capacity (especially foreigners). Relax, culture and nature are among their main reasons for traveling. Here are the LGBT tourists, as reported by the Centro Studi Studi Turistici of Florence, which in the investigation of Lanfranco Editore has dedicated an article.

The main channel of information is the Web. The LGBT tourist makes more trips during the year: on average, foreigners make three trips for an eleven-day duration, while the Italians make two with a nine-day duration. The foreign LGBT tourist spends an average of 2,060 euros, while the Italian one about 800 euros.

In terms of destinations, foreign LGBT tourists prefer the USA and Canada (North America, 51%) and Europe (37%), especially Spain and the UK. Italian LGBT tourists prefer Europe (92%): 51% Italy, 26% Spain. Among the cities, for LGBT Italian tourists, first is Rome, followed by Milan, Paris, Barcelona, London and Naples, adds ANSA.

The most welcoming places for LGBT people are Barcelona (30%), Mykonos (29%), Canary Islands (15%), San Francisco (15%) and London (15%). Among the Italian places, Gallipoli is the first (Lecce, 8%), while Torre del Lago (Lucca), the pioneer resort for gay tourism, is 4%.


LGBT Tourism & Hospitality Survey, a research by CMI

We end our rainbow trip with a couple of evidences emerging from the LGBT Tourism & Hospitality Survey by Community Marketing & Insights, based on responses provided by consumers who read LGBT publications, visit LGBT websites and participate in LGBT events.

The first evidence concerns the reference destinations for LGBT travelers. They are New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. Hawaii are preferred for LGBT wedding honeymoons, the seaside resorts of Florida and Mexico are gaining importance for weddings.

The second evidence concerns the needs of LGBT families with children. The weight of the family friendly component is on the rise, the LGTB friendly component decreasing.

Enjoy the journey with 6Tour!

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