• Share this on:

Entering the European market for the LGBTQ segment

Last updated:
Takes 23 minutes to read

Tolerance, respect and inclusivity are key requirements to attract LGBTQ travellers. A few destinations in developing countries already stand out as particularly welcoming to people who identify as LGBTQ, such as Argentina and South Africa. Emerging operators in developing countries willing to either specialise in or widen their assortment to cater to the LGBTQ community have growing opportunities.

1. What are the requirements for travel products targeting the LGBTQ segment to be allowed on the European market?

European tourism providers are bound by strict regulations to ensure the safety of their LGBTQ travellers while they travel overseas. It is important that you understand what they are if you are to sell your travel product to them

What are the mandatory requirements that buyers have?

The requirements for European tour operators to offer travel products for the LGBTQ segment in developing countries include the following:

  • The European Package Travel Directive
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Liability insurance and insolvency protection

As a first step, read the CBI’s requirements for tourism services on the European market and familiarise yourself with the comprehensive details of legal, non-legal and common requirements.

What are the additional requirements that buyers have?

Recommendations on LGBTQ Rights and Travel

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), governments and tourism operators have a duty protect the human rights of LGBTQ people, which include:

  • Protect individuals from homophobic and transphobic violence
  • Prevent torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment
  • Repeal laws criminalising homosexuality and transgender people
  • Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Safeguard freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly for all LGBTQ people

You should ensure your business adheres to these obligations. Read more on this topic in this article by the United Nations OHCHR.

Tolerance, Respect and Inclusivity

Promoting diversity and inclusion is an important issue for the LGBTQ community and for society in general, but especially in workplaces. The UN OHCHR has formulated Standards of Conduct for Business to encourage businesses to foster diversity and promote respect and equality in and out of the workplace. The main five standards include:

  1. Respect human rights at all times
  2. Eliminate discrimination in the workplace
  3. Provide support in the workplace
  4. Prevent other human rights violations in the marketplace
  5. Act in the public sphere within the community

Research into the benefits of promoting a culture of LGBTQ inclusion and diversity has shown considerable economic benefits for businesses, including increasing attractiveness to potential customers and employees. Many large international hotel chains have pledged to adopt the UN Standards of Conduct for Business, including Hyatt and Hilton. See the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality for a full list of companies joining this initiative.

It is important that you create an inclusive atmosphere within your own business as a pre-condition to attracting business from LGBTQ travellers. You must assure your visitors or clients, that they will be welcomed, respected and not feel unsafe nor discriminated. As a starting point, add a statement of inclusivity in your own code of conduct, such as this one from a local operator in India:

Chart 1: Examples of tour operator statements targeting LGBTQ customers
lgbt_statement_1.png  lgbt_statement_2.png

Source: Keeper Landwey; BA Gay Travel

Safety is an important concern for LGBTQ travellers, since many areas of the world remain unsafe for LGBTQ people. Most LGBTQ travellers will do careful research of local laws and customs of potential destinations, including the general attitude towards local LGBTQ people. Make sure your website features helpful information in this regard, such as dress codes for visiting places of worship and information on public displays of affection for all types of couples.

Tips:

  • Create your own standards of conduct, including a diversity commitment using the UN Standards of Conduct to help you. Your standards must clearly outline how your business welcomes LGBTQ people to attract them as visitors or clients.
  • Train your staff to enable them to recognise, understand and respect the needs of LGBTQ people.
  • If you hire services from other providers in your destination, such as accommodation providers, tour and activities providers, they must adhere to your diversity commitment.
  • Work in partnership with local businesses and the local LGBTQ community.
  • Promote safe travel and encourage LGBTQ travellers to use discretion and avoid public displays of affection.

What are the requirements for niche markets?

Sustainability and Responsibility

Like many other key tourism segments, sustainability and responsibility have become important to consumers, including among LGBTQ travellers. You should ensure your travel products are created and promoted as sustainable and responsible.

Read the following CBI studies to learn more about sustainable and responsible tourism:

Honeymoons and Weddings

Same-sex marriages are now legal in several European countries. LGBTQ travellers from Germany, the UK, Spain and other countries are expected to add to the market of destination weddings and honeymoons in the coming years. However, there are relatively few destinations outside Europe that offer legally binding civil partnerships. You must know whether marriages in your destination will be legally binding in a couple’s home country. Currently, LGBTQ couples from the UK and Germany can be legally married in Argentina, Brazil, Thailand and South Africa. Argentina, for example, has an express marriage category for foreign LGBTQ couples called ‘Casamiento Express’, which enables them getting married in five days.

If your country does not offer even legal civil partnerships, you can offer symbolic or commitment ceremonies, which, in spite of not being legally binding, give you the opportunity to reach out to the LGBTQ community with a special ceremony for them and their friends and families.

Often having more disposable incomes than opposite-sex couples, LGBTQ couples normally look for exceptional places to get married. Religious venues are less popular among the LGBTQ community. Like any other wedding ceremony, beaches are common locations for weddings, but also wineries and distilleries, luxury resorts or hotels, city parks and other iconic or well-known indoor or outdoor location. Lonely Planet’s top 10 destinations for gay weddings include Buenos Aires and Cape Town. You could do your own research to find out why LGBTQ couples choose these destinations to inform development of the sector in your destination. Make sure the places you offer for weddings are appropriately licensed.

After the wedding, much like any other newlyweds, LGBTQ couples like to honeymoon or go on holiday straight away, which offers opportunities for local operators to provide these services as well.

Tips:

  • Familiarise yourself with the marriage requirements for foreign couples in your country and see if there are any special services offered. Read these FAQs from Argentine wedding planners Fabulous Weddings, so you have an idea of what information you need to find out.
  • Make sure your wedding or honeymoon department can offer the appropriate expertise and support to LGBTQ couples too. Like any other wedding, these include planning, helping to secure the appropriate licences, booking an officiator, organising the catering and so on.
  • Establish strong working relationships with other service providers, including florists, photographers, entertainers and musicians.
  • Consider putting together a wedding package to help those travelling on a budget.

Facilities for Families

There is growing demand from families started by an LGBTQ couple to travel with their children. However, these families often find it difficult to find suitable destinations, where they will not face hostility from providers unused to same-sex couples with children. For these reasons, LBGTQ parents often prefer to travel where they will feel safe, respected and welcome.

LGBTQ parents are more concerned about the availability of family-friendly activities and facilities than they are with an LGBTQ-friendly environment. Make sure your assortment includes suitable activities for parents and children while also indicating that your business is LGBTQ-friendly, so as to provide reassurance. For tips on providing family-friendly activities, see the CBI report on entering the European market for multigenerational tourism.

Tips:

  • Be very clear on your website and in any marketing material that you welcome LGBTQ families.
  • Make sure all families, whether they include LGBTQ people or not, enjoy the same benefits, courtesy and service from all your staff and providers.
  • Use gender neutral language, such as calling out for ‘guests’ rather than ‘ladies and gentlemen’, or using ‘server’ rather than waiter or waitress.

2. Through what channels can you get travel products for the LGBTQ segment on the European market?

How is the end market segmented?

The number of adults identifying as LGBTQ is growing, as the intolerance from other people wanes. Younger people in particular are more likely to identify as LGBTQ than previous generations: an estimated 36% of LGBTQ adults in the United States are aged 18–34. The LGBTQ initialism stands for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queers, but it also includes:

  • Gays and lesbians
  • Transgenders
  • Bisexuals
  • Queer, questioning, intersex, pansexual
  • Asexual, ally, demisexual, non-binary, gender fluid, two-spirited and many others
  • Families formed by LGBTQ couples include adults of any sexual orientation and their children, biological or adopted.

Travel motivations among LGBTQ people vary widely and behaviour is often defined by personal values, preferences and circumstances not related to their sexual preference nor gender identity. For instance, young gay men are more likely to travel to city destinations where there are gay events and nightlife, while lesbian travellers of all ages are more likely to take a trip that includes rural tourism activities. LGBTQ families are more likely to choose a destination with child-friendly activities

Younger LGBTQ consumers, particularly millennials, tend to be more open about their sexuality than older ones. They are also more likely to want to travel as a couple without having to worry about being harassed, discriminated against or suffering violence because of their sexual preference or gender identity. Unsurprisingly, much like any other millennials, they also expect high levels of service from tour operators and other service providers — personalisation is important. Naturally, they are more likely to consider travelling to places where they can expect inclusion, respect and safety. This group is considered instrumental in leading the way towards helping to change social attitudes and public perception of LGBTQ people in places where they are now unwelcome.

The chart below provides an interesting segmentation model of the LGBTQ community and indicates how age and current state of mind impacts behaviour and motivation at a certain point in time.

Chart 2: Protean Segmentation Model
lgbt_protean_segmentation.png
 

Source: Protean Hospitality Partners

Based on the above segmentation, a profile of the types of holidays typically enjoyed by each individual group is demonstrated in the following chart.

Chart 3: LGBTQ focused needs segmentation by profile
lgbt_focussed_needs_segmentation.png

Source: Protean Hospitality Partners

Notes: For further information, see the full primer by Protean Hospitality Partners Beyond Sex: Marketing to Gays and Lesbians based on who they are and what they need.

Tip:

Through what channels do travel products for the LGBTQ segment end up on the end market?

Like most other travellers, LGBTQ travellers also use the internet extensively to research and book their trips using a variety of methods. Word of mouth from other LGBTQ travellers is very important because tried and tested options allow potential new LGBTQ travellers to feel secure about these options. Several LGBTQ influencers and bloggers manage extensive travel websites and are highly regarded in the sector: Nomadic Boys, Globetrotter Girls, 1 Dad 1 Kid, and Couple of Men.

Chart 4: Sales channels used by LGBTQ travellers
lgbt_channels.png

Source: Acorn Tourism Consulting

The following resources can be interesting sources of research and information about market channels:

  • The IGLTA (The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association) is used widely by LGBTQ travellers to find destinations, operators and businesses that cater to their travel needs. The resources are extensive and range from large corporations to local businesses. The Plan Your Trip tool allows searches by location, provider category, and trip type. Many LGBTQ specialist tour operators will have an IGLTA membership to reach their target market more effectively.
  • Specialist tour operators which specialise in the LGBTQ travel are reasonably common in Europe. Examples from the leading outbound markets include:
    Germany: Pink Tours, Over the Rainbow and Thailand Spezialisten
    Spain: Rainbow Gay Tours, Seven Colors Tours and Leemba Travel
    UK: Out of Office and Travel Designers
  • Among general tour operators and travel agencies, some major European travel brands have created specialist LGBTQ holiday divisions, including Germany’s Dertour and the UK’s Kuoni. The Gay European Tourism Associatio (GETA) publishes a list of European Gay Travel Agents and Tour Operators that includes listings of operators in Scandinavia, Iceland, Italy and Cyprus.
  • LGBTQ trips are a common feature on OTAs that specialise in experiences, trips and adventures. Viator and Airbnb Experiences offer a wide range of LGBTQ-friendly trips by destination. Purple Roofs is an OTA that offers gay- and lesbian-owned and friendly accommodations in various countries, including Ecuador, Peru and Thailand.
  • LGBTQ chambers of commerce have been established in a number of countries to help support and reach out to the LGBTQ community. They can be instrumental in campaigning for equal rights, supporting businesses marketing efforts, running local events and training local staff. Notable examples include: La Camara de Comercio Gay Lesbica Argentina and La Camara de Comerciantes LGBT de Colombia.
  • ITB Berlin, the world’s largest travel show, has an LGBTQ dedicated exhibition area, including a presentation corner, networking events, lectures, online and on-site seminars. By attending such events, you can broaden your own knowledge about the market.

Stay abreast of developments in the LGBTQ travel market. In addition to IGLTA, consider joining one of the other many membership associations: ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) and GETA (Gay European Tourism Association). Equaldex compiles information about LGBTQ rights by country. To provide reassurance to your potential customer, you could consider including a link on your website to the relevant page on Equaldex, which should look like this example:

Chart 5: Equaldex – LGBT Rights in Argentina
lgbt_equaldex.png

Source: Equaldex

Tips:

  • Look up European tour operators that specialise in LGBTQ travel to developing countries and the experiences and trips they offer to inform the development of yours.
  • Consider attending or exhibiting at the IGLTA Annual Global Conference (6–9 May 2020) or ITB Berlin (4–6 March 2020).
  • Collaborate with a local destination management company or join forces with other local operators to keep costs low.
  • Look into and contact LGBTQ chambers of commerce and other LGBTQ associations exist in your destination.

What is the most interesting channel for you?

As a local operator in a developing country, being associated with trusted and high-profile organisations such as IGLTA is a good way to reach the European LGBTQ consumer. An IGLTA membership will also give you global reach. However, to enhance your status with LGBTQ travellers, you should also provide on your website comprehensive information about the travel services you offer. The following CBI studies can help you with with building or updating your website:

These two reports also offer tips on working with European tour operators and OTAs.

Tip:

  • Work with your local destination marketing organisation or national tourist board for help with promoting the services you offer to LGBTQ visitors. See if you can get a link to your website from theirs.

3. What is the competition like in the LGBTQ market?

Which countries are you competing with?

Most of the best-known and most-visited destinations by the LGBTQ community are in Europe and North America, where inclusion and respect have improved markedly in the past few decades. European LGBTQ travellers are more likely to choose a destination where they know they feel safe and respected without fearing discrimination. The market is particularly strong in many European cities and Canada where LGBTQ events and festivals are popular and well known. This is not the case in many other places in the world, and often the opposite is true.

This ILGA map shows the difference in legal protection or punishment available to same-sex couples. Among developing countries, many African countries and Middle Eastern countries have some of the harshest laws while some countries in South America provide high levels of legal protection from discrimination.

Chart 6: Sexual Orientation Laws in the World, 2019
lgbt_map.png

Source: ILGA

Nevertheless, LGBTQ people go on travel and look for exciting and unique travel experiences. There are many opportunities for local operators in safe destinations. The top LGBTQ-friendly developing countries include:

  • Argentina
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • India
  • South Africa
  • Thailand

Major cities in all these destinations are generally welcoming of LGBTQ visitors and host large events aimed at LGBTQ people. Pride events are showcase festivals in many large cities to which many European LGBTQ travellers plan long-haul trips so they can attend one such event. However, rural places in all of these top countries can be more challenging for LGBTQ travellers. Read this blog post featuring a first-person account by a single gay father travelling with his son to find out more about some of the challenges that LGBTQ people face while travelling.

Argentina

Argentina was the first country in Latin America to legalise same-sex marriage, and the second on the American continent after Canada. It is one of a handful of countries that allows gay marriage between non-residents. It also became the world’s most transgender-friendly country when it introduced gender identity laws in 2012. The government proactively supports gay events, such as the GNetwork 360 Conference every August and the BA Pride in November, a highly acclaimed event in Latin America. The gay scenes in Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Cordoba are vibrant and the city of Rosario has a reputation for being the most gay-friendly and liberal-minded in Argentina.

Colombia

Since adopting same-sex marriage laws in 2016 Colombia has evolved to become one of the continent’s most tolerant countries. The city of Bogota elected a gay mayor, Claudia Lopez, in 2019, for example. Other Colombian cities host several LGBTQ events, including during the Barranquilla carnival, the Flower Festival in Medellin and the Salsa Festival in Cali. The Theatron, dubbed the largest gay club in Latin America, is located in Bogota as well.

Ecuador

Ecuador changed its constitution in 1997 to allow for progressive legislation which included anti-discrimination laws on the grounds of sexual orientation. Same-sex marriage was legalised in Ecuador in 2019, where a wealth of natural attractions includes the Galapagos Islands. Ecuador has become a popular destination for gay expats relocating from North America on account of favourable weather conditions year-round.

India

Gay sex was decriminalised in 2018 in India, where transgender rights have also improved in recent years. Although conservative and lacking legal protection for LGBTQ people, India’s reputation as a gay-friendly destination is growing and all mainstream destinations typically welcome LGBTQ visitors. The issue of LGBTQ rights is gaining traction in the public debate in the country, where an estimated 26 million gay people provide multiple opportunities for local businesses, including tour operators. Major events include the Queer Azaadi Mumbai and the annual International Queer Film Festival in Mumbai. There is a vibrant gay culture in most large Indian cities, including several pride events in Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. In addition to the major hotel chains which are typically welcoming to LGBTQ visitors, small boutique and local hotels in India are also actively targeting LGBTQ travellers too.

South Africa

South Africa offers significant constitutional protection for LGBTQ people, along with progressive transgender laws, having legalised same-sex marriage in 2006. Pride events are held in Cape Town and Johannesburg, which was known as the Pride of Africa, on account of being the largest in the continent. Outside targeted LGBTQ events, South Africa’s tourism product is exceptional and local operators have an opportunity to expand their range to attract more LGBTQ travellers.

Thailand

Although same-sex marriage is not legal in Thailand, the country has one of the most relaxed attitudes to LGBTQ in South East Asia, especially for gay men. Bangkok in particular has welcomed LBGTQ visitors for many years as the ‘Gay Capital of Asia’, and the beaches of southern Thailand are a popular choice. The Thai tourism board (TAT) positions Thailand as ‘open to every colour and every type of traveller’. TAT has created a website specifically for LGBTQ travellers, Go Thai Be Free, providing comprehensive information about LGBTQ-friendly hotels, destinations and events under one portal.

Tips:

  • You should thoroughly research how easy it is for LGBTQ visitors to travel to cities and other places around your own destination. Make sure you know where there are no-go areas for LGBTQ travellers.
  • Regardless of your business’ location, it is important that you keep your LGBTQ visitors informed about attitudes towards LGBTQ people in your country.

Which companies are you competing with?

Local tour operators working in the LGBTQ sector are a mix of specialist organisations that only supply the LGBTQ market and other companies that promote themselves as LGBTQ friendly. This section profiles a selection of both.

Argentina

BA Gay Travel is a gay-owned travel agency that offers a wide selection of packages to Buenos Aires, Argentina and other countries in South America. Their packages include New Year’s in Buenos Aires, wedding packages, carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Gay Argentina, and Patagonia and its glaciers. The website also features a Buenos Aires Gay Guide with a focus on finding the best LGBTQ experiences. They also offer travel tips for couples looking into getting married in Argentina.

LGBTQ destination weddings are a lucrative and growing niche within LGBTQ travel. Fabulous Weddings is a wedding planning company founded in 2010, which plans weddings for foreign LGBTQ couples. They offer several services, including dealing with all the legalities. Their inspirational website provides a large number of testimonials from couples and links to news articles.

Colombia

Out in Colombia Travel targets travellers to Colombia, promoting cross-cultural exchanges. This operator works with local providers around the country, offering tour guides bilingual in English and Spanish.

Ecuador

Zenith Travel has been providing travel experiences for LGBTQ travellers to Ecuador, the Galapagos and Peru for more than 20 years. Their trips include day trips and longer excursions, along with Galapagos cruises. Its website is available in both Spanish and English, featuring positive TripAdvisor reviews prominently. The company is also highly recommended by the Ecuadorian tourist board, IGLTA, Lonely Planet and Footprint.

Out Nomad offers luxury, environmentally and socially responsible itineraries in Ecuador for gay men only. The trips are designed to be experiential and immersive, even though they offer accommodation in luxury hotels, lodges and yachts.

India

Indjapink is India’s first tour operator targeting gay men only, providing customised luxury travel to destinations all over India. Tours are provided by local gay English-speaking guides. The operator also offers honeymoon products and products for senior LGBTQ travellers and LGBTQ visitors with disabilities.

Keeper Landwey has four different travel brands. Different Gates is aimed at LGBTQ people and other groups with specific needs. This operator provides its staff with specific training and education to ensure these diverse groups are treated respectfully. Read more about how this operator works effectively with the LGBTQ community in this article: How one operator found success with accessible and gay-friendly tours in conservative destinations.

Planet Rosa provides LGBTQ trips to all of India, including bespoke travel arrangements, group tours, destination weddings and honeymoons, and luxury trips. This operator is a member of major associations, including IGLTA, and IATO, the Indian Association of Tour Operators. Their website also features lists of the most gay-friendly Indian cities, hotels and bars.

South Africa

LGBTQ Vacation is a division of Amatungulu Tours operating tours from Cape Town and Johannesburg. Their tours include safaris and game drives, trips to Table Mountain, adventure activities like bungee jumping, visits to wineries and marine life watching, etc. They use either gay-owned or gay-friendly accommodation. Where possible, tours incorporate local gay events during the day or evening, such as the Pink Loerie Festival in Knysna, a local Mardi Gras and arts festival.

Thailand

Bangkok Gay Tour offers private tours for gay men and lesbians in and around Bangkok, including the major sites, such as the Grand Palace, the floating markets, a tour of Ayutthaya, and gay and lesbian night tours. It has a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. Tour guides are local but speak English well.

Which products are you competing with?

LGBTQ is a highly specialised segment which defines people according to their sexual orientation and gender identity, rather than specific products. The LGBTQ market is growing strongly and there is considerable competition for the pink pound, so your competition is chiefly other tour operators targeting the same audience as you.

To stand out in this marketplace, you should:

  • Understand what makes your destination a great LGBTQ destination and make sure your travel product reflects this.
  • Research what your competitors are doing, both in the LGBTQ market and also in other sectors, from which you can adapt strategies that might also work in your sector.
  • Take time to establish a USP (unique selling point). See the CBI’s tips for doing business with European Buyers to learn more about creating a USP for your product.
  • Provide authentic travel products. Working closely with the local LGBTQ community to develop and provide a travel product is a crucial way of providing authenticity and demonstrating inclusion and diversity.
  • Use real LGBTQ people in all your marketing materials and on your website.
  • Make sure your staff have been trained appropriately. Many organisations offer training, such as Hospitable Me.
  • Think carefully about how you can provide your LGBTQ guests with important services that you would also provide to any other guests, such as assigning beds as requested, providing welcome amenities, such as bathrobes and slippers, and offering spa packages.
  • Work closely with other LGBTQ stakeholders in your area, for instance, the organisers of a pride celebration and other LGBTQ events. Establishing partnerships will help increase your exposure in the market.

4. What are the prices for LGBTQ products on the European market?

Prices of LGBTQ experiences, trips and holidays vary like in many other segments, depending on many factors that include service level (budget or luxury), inclusions (transportation, admission fees, tour guides), food and drinks, type of accommodation and so on. The chart below provides examples of prices in the market.

Table 1: Sample prices for LGBTQ Experiences, short trips and holidays in developing countries

Experiences

Country

Duration

Guide Price Per Person €

Day or part-day experiences

     

Otavalo Market

Ecuador

Day

50

Mindo Cloud Forest Tour

Ecuador

Day

54

Chapinero: Queer & Coolture Route, Bogota

Colombia

4 hours

56

Premium Argentinian wine tasting

Argentina

2 hours

59

Bangkok City Tour

Thailand

7 hours

73

Gay Night Tour

Thailand

Evening

88

LGBTQ Friendly Mumbai City Tour

India

7 hours

124

Short Trips (2–5 days)

     

LGBT Friendly Delhi Agra Jaipur Tour

India

4 days

334

Ecuador Andes

Ecuador

4 days

760

Salta: Tradition and Colour

Argentina

3 nights

977

Cape Town to Port Elizabeth

South Africa

5 days

1,006

Valdes Peninsula and its Whales

Argentina

3 nights

1,171

Holidays (1–3 weeks)

     

Get Married in Buenos Aires

Argentina

7 days

1,443

Gay Surf Brazil

Brazil

7 nights

1,500

Land-Based trip to Galapagos

Ecuador

8 days

1,591

Feria de las Flores Group Tour, Medellin

Colombia

8 days

2,170

Cape Town to Kruger

South Africa

17 days

3,362

A Northern Panorama Tour

India

12 nights

3,789

Source: Acorn Tourism Consulting

Notes: Research was conducted online with various tour operators in November 2019. Prices exclude international airfares.

For more information about LGBTQ Tourism, download and read the UNWTO’s Second Global Report on LGBT Tourism.

This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by Acorn Tourism Consulting Limited.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

  • Share this on:

Search

Enter search terms to find market research

Do you have questions about this research?

Ask your question