LGBT travelers are one of the most lucrative and desired segments within the tourism industry. Destinations, hotels and major event promoters work tirelessly to try and capture a piece of this market. Even though we are a small portion of the population, we represent a disproportionately large section of worldwide travelers. While there are a number of reasons, one of the biggest is that LGBT people often don’t have children, or at least not at the same level as our straight counterparts. This leaves us with more time and money to travel and more flexible schedules to travel year around, rather than being limited by school holidays and vacations.
In much of the Western world, being gay has become trendy in pop culture and many businesses are trying to tap in to take part. Beyond the trend, it just makes good business sense. But being on the receiving end of this you need to be cautious about who gets your money. Just because you see an ad for a hotel in a gay magazine doesn’t necessarily mean the property is gay friendly – it’s just an indication that they’ve spent money to try and target you.
A Great Example of a Committed Hotel in Barcelona
We recently learned about Hotel Soho located in Barcelona and in our opinion they do a great job truly being a gay friendly property, without specifically being a gay-only hotel. Hotel Soho is open and welcoming to anyone, but they’ve made the conscious effort to embrace the LGBT community. Their location in Eixample, Barcelona’s gay neighborhood is a great start but it’s not an ending place. Luckily, Barcelona is one of those destinations where you can check off many of the desired categories when visiting a city – great weather, beaches, excellent culinary scene, history, architecture, culture and gay-friendly.
Not only does the hotel welcome LGBT visitors, but they have a reception policy where they always ask couples if they prefer a queen size bed regardless if they're same or opposite sex. No gay couple likes that awkward moment when the hotel reception asks if you meant to book 2 single beds. They also have copies of Barcelona’s local Urban Loop Gay Guide available for any LGBT guests and they even have a dedicated section on their website which gives a recommended LGBT Route to visitors – notably displayed on their homepage. They’ve listed their property on World Rainbow Hotels (thereby passing the gay-friendly verification process) and also support and donate to the Barcelona Pride fund which puts on the annual gay pride each June. And come July, when Barcelona really heats up, they offer a dedicated poolside bar during the infamous Circuit Party in Barcelona.
If you decide to check out this property on your visit to Barcelona, be sure to use the promo code “TWOBADTOURISTS” to save 10% on their website when booking.
What Do We Look For When Traveling?
While every traveler looks for something different when planning a trip or choosing a destination, there are some underlying commonalties that come up. Does the destination you’ve chosen have a good or bad reputation? Most travelers probably don’t know too many details about the local laws of a foreign place but we often know the places to avoid (e.g. Russia’s increasing anti-gay stance or Uganda’s horrific criminal punishments for being gay) or those with extraordinarily positive gay-friendly reputations (e.g. Western Europe or gay hot spots like Palm Springs, Mykonos or Fire Island).
After filtering out those no-go places, it really comes down to the experience. Do you want the beach and warm weather, culture and history, a great culinary and food scene or maybe sports and outdoor activities? Often times an LGBT oriented event like a pride, festival or party might also help persuade you to choose a destination you might not have originally considered. And of course peer reviews and recommendations are always considered, especially when coming from close friends, work colleagues or family. But ultimately, it comes down to choosing a place where you’ll have fun, feel welcome and most importantly, feel safe.
What to Avoid?
It can be time consuming and stressful to research and fully vet all the travel companies and service providers to make sure they’re truly gay friendly. After all, every time you open a web browser, turn to social media or open a magazine, you’re inundated with countless advertisements – often targeted specifically to you as an LGBT person. First off, if a business has a gay oriented webpage but their content and imagery shows pictures of straight couples, it’s a sure sign they aren’t committed or simply don't understand. Further, if you can’t easily find LGBT information on their website then they haven’t taken the step to set themselves apart, beyond just paying for the advertisements. Lastly, businesses that only raise the gay flag once per year when gay pride comes around aren’t really standing out anymore. After all, don’t you want to support a business that’s gay friendly and acknowledges our community year around? Remember the example from Hotel Soho? It’s more than just supporting for a few days during pride – they’re doing it all year around even if it’s not visible from the outside and this is what counts!
What to Embrace?
Whether gay owned or not, companies that welcome us and support the LGBT community are most deserving of our business, assuming they can meet all our other requirements. If you have the budget, you can work with an LGBT owned and operated tour company to ensure you’re setup with the best gay and gay-friendly travel providers. Tour operators like Detours Travel, Out Adventures or OUTstanding Travel are just a few that come to mind. These companies develop close relationships with their suppliers and it’s in their best interest to ensure they work with only those top businesses that cater to our community. Businesses like the newly launched site Out of Office, also offer gay-friendly packages to more than 30 countries which can be easily booked online.
While some major airlines have made efforts to attract LGBT travelers, it’s the hotel or accommodation where you’ll spend the most time and interact with staff over the course of multiple days. If you prefer to plan your own trip or are more budget conscious, try finding hotels on sites like World Rainbow Hotels or look for companies who are members of the IGLTA – the leading international LGBT travel association. Being a member with these sites and organizations demonstrate more effort than simply running an ad in a gay magazine or website. Again, it really comes down to businesses that welcome and support LGBT people in more ways than just one.
So Now What?
We understand that most people don’t want to spend the time sorting out the good from the bad. That’s one of the reasons we’ve published our series of gay city guides plus created our “Plan Your Trip” section on the site to help you find a listing of gay and gay-friendly business including tour operators, accommodation, events and more. We list properties like Hotel Soho in Barcelona (don’t forget the 10% discount!) that go the extra distance and exceed our expectations in being gay-friendly. Most importantly, start by using your gut feeling when selecting a property or other travel related business providers. If it feels right, you’re probably on the right track but try taking a closer look if you have any hesitations.
What do you look for when choosing a gay-friendly travel company or provider? Let us know in the comments below!
Note: this article was sponsored by Hotel Soho but rest assured that all opinions are 100% our own and we don't sacrifice our integrity for a sponsorship. In fact, we thoroughly researched the property and support their company and would happily stay with them on any trip to Barcelona. Photo credits via Hotel Soho unless otherwise noted.