If you’re gay, you’re probably already familiar with some of the challenges that come with traveling to a new city, and if you’re not, you can probably imagine what those challenges are.
In some countries, the risk of facing homophobia can be an intimidating deterrent; in Jamaica, for example, two of its most prominent gay rights activists were abducted and murdered in the past three years, indicating a volatile atmosphere for openly gay travelers.
In other places, simply the lack of gay-friendly nightlife can turn off travelers who are accustomed to — or seeking out — a more welcoming environment. The concept of an all-gay or gay-friendly destination is not to exclude others, but to provide a safe and comfortable experience for gay travelers.
The idea is to find cities, resorts and cruises which have a liberal attitude toward homosexuality and civil rights, offer gay-friendly businesses, and, above all, offer opportunities to socialize with other members of the community.
Based on a survey done by Travel Industry Association, in partnership with
Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs Communications, nearly half of all gay
men (48%) and lesbians (47%) surveyed said that a destination’s
gay-friendliness is an important factor when making leisure travel choices.
And more than half of all gay travelers desired a place where they could
hold their partner’s hand without fear of harassment.
In recent years, the travel industry has been taking notice of what has been
deemed the “pink dollar,” i.e. the purchasing power of the gay and lesbian
community on travel and leisure activities. In fact, recent estimates gauge
the gay consumer market to be worth more than $640 billion.
A 2006 survey by Community Marketing, Inc., found that gay travelers spend about $64 billion a year on travel alone, with gay men spending more on average than their lesbian and heterosexual counterparts. Gay men traveling alone reported that they spent nearly a third more on their total trip expense, $800 on average, than heterosexuals traveling alone, $540 on average.
When gay men reported their last trip traveling as a group, the average spending of their entire party was $3,070, while heterosexual groups spent an average of $2,870. So where are they spending their travel dollars?
According to the Travel Industry Association, the top destinations for gay
and lesbian travelers in 2006 are:
San Francisco, CA
Key West, FL
New York City, NY
Fire Island (part of Long Island, NY)
Los Angeles, CA
Miami-South Beach, FL
Las Vegas, NV
New Orleans, LA
Palm Springs-Palm Desert, CA
The following basic resources can help GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and
Transgender) travelers plan a gay-friendly vacation, whether it’s finding
the perfect destination, or finding great activities, restaurants or
merchants once you’re there.
International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGTLA) has a database of
hundreds of gay-owned and gay-friendly travel businesses, including
destinations, tour operators, accommodations, airlines, cruise lines and car
rental companies. http://www.iglta.com
Damron guidebooks cater to gay and lesbian travelers, including a guide to
75 cities around the world. http://www.damron.com/
Out Traveler magazine is a national publication catering to gay and lesbian
travelers, with destination articles, tips and stories. http://www.outtraveler.com
Instinct Magazine, a national gay and lesbian publication, now has a gay
travel online resource, http://www.gaytravelnews.com/
Gay.com’s travel portal offers destination guides, expert advice and
listings for LGBT travelers. http://www.gay.com/travel
Passport Magazine is a GLBT-oriented travel magazine offering destination
profiles, travel features, and GLBT travel news.
Lesbian & Gay Hospitality Exchange International is a network of gay and
lesbian hosts and travelers who offer free accommodations to other members.
There are currently more than 500 listings in over 30 countries.
Purple Roofs is a website highlighting gay-owned and gay-friendly
accommodations and travel providers around the world.
Prominent LGBT Travel Companies
These companies are proud to be some of the largest providers of GLBT travel
services in the USA. Do keep in mind that some events may be oriented
toward men or women, while others encourage a mix of genders. Generally,
though, any traveler comfortable enough to sign up for a GLBT trip is
Atlantis Events is one of the leading gay travel companies, creating all-gay
and lesbian group tours, cruises and resorts. 1-800-6-ATLANTIS. http://www.atlantisevents.com/
Odysseus Travel has been arranging tours for gay and lesbian travelers since
1984, (800) 257-5344. http://www.odyusa.com/
RSVP Vacations, owned by PlanetOut media company, organizes gay and lesbian
cruises and river boat excursions around the world. http://www.rsvpvacations.com
Olivia Cruises caters to lesbian travelers, including cruise and resort
packages, adventure trips and family vacations. 1-800-631-6277. http://www.oliviacruises.com/
Purple Dragon specializes in gay-friendly travel groups to Asia, including
Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China and India. http://www.purpledrag.com
Sarika Chawla has written gay travel stories for IN Los Angeles and Out Traveler.