Elle Pinkard tells Samantha Mayling about combining a love of travel with a desire to create connections for other LGBTQ+ people
Q. Why did you set up Destination Rainbow?
A. While travelling with my wife and our three children, we passed another rainbow family at the airport and I’d hoped they’d be going to the same destination. We wanted our children to connect with families like ours. This led to combining my love of travel with my desire to create these connections for other LGBTQ+ people.
Q. What was your previous experience?
A. My first job was switchboard operator for Radisson Hotels, then reception, reservations and PA to the front-of-house manager. I’ve also been reservations manager for an online hotel comparison company and PA in financial services, construction and hotels. I first flew on my own when I was 11, to Amsterdam, and I’ve lived in Italy, Spain and the US. I loved organising travel so working for a homeworking agency was a natural progression. I’m thankful for the experience and realisation this was something I thoroughly enjoyed.
I also realised I wanted to specialise in LGBTQ+ holidays. The message was so personal it had to be done through an agency I could control, so I left and launched Destination Rainbow and Adventures by Elle, in January 2022. I chose two agencies because laws for LGBTQ+ travellers are different in each country, and it’s an unfortunate necessity to keep them separate as a matter of safety for customers. Also, I can tailor Destination Rainbow branding and packages to queer families.
I loved organising travel so working for a homeworking agency was a natural progression
Q. Why did you choose Protected Trust Services?
A. As a PTS member I can offer 100% financial protection. I can work with businesses outside PTS partnerships – suppliers that are LGBTQ+ friendly. I also network with other PTS agencies. Support from industry peers and making lots of lovely friends has been amazing. My new home office here in East Sussex is perfect for meeting clients in person or on video, and I can easily visit London.
Q. What was your first booking at the agency?
A. I booked a week in Greece for an LGBTQ+ family with two children. They loved it and plan to return. One of my favourite bookings was scuba diving in a luxury Indonesian resort, followed by visiting Bali. I also have clients touring luxury estates and castles in Ireland and Scotland. I hope to introduce group holidays, where clients can enjoy the entire experience surrounded by peers and allies.
My new home office here in East Sussex is perfect for meeting clients in person or on video, and I can easily visit London
Q. How has business been recently?
A. I’m on track to double the number of bookings I made in my first year. Navigating the Greece wildfires was difficult, and finding alternatives for clients about to board a plane to a hotel that was being evacuated was a learning curve. European all-inclusive holidays are extremely popular. With the cost-of-living crisis, families prefer to pay for most costs in advance.
Q. What about your travels?
A. Our family spent nine weeks last year visiting France, Greece, Texas and Portugal. Mexico and Greece are planned later this year. Next year, my wife and I will have our first break without kids since we married; the kids are 16, 10 and five, so it’s been a long time. We’ve planned a long weekend in New York, plus a family holiday to India in October.
Next year, my wife and I will have our first break without kids since we married; the kids are 16, 10 and five, so it’s been a long time
Q. How do you find your clients?
A. I don’t do any paid marketing as I want the business to grow organically. My website is a true reflection of me and my brand, and easy for families to navigate. I run a group for LGBTQ+ families, so many clients are from that community. Word-of-mouth also helped build my clientele. Instagram and Facebook are brilliant; they offer simple ways for followers to share my posts. One shared Instagram post meant Destination Rainbow was mentioned in a travel and tourism course at a UK college. I’ve planned an Instagram Live with Malta’s tourism board, to talk to my LGBTQ+ families about how family-friendly the country is. There are many misconceptions about countries for LGBTQ+ travellers, it can be overwhelming.
One shared Instagram post meant Destination Rainbow was mentioned in a travel and tourism course at a UK college
What’s it like travelling as an LGBTQ+ mum of three?
It is much like any other mum of three! We want what any other family wants – enough space for us all, enough to keep the kids entertained and to know that we will be welcomed as a family. As an out and proud lesbian, I am only too familiar with feelings of anxiety that sometimes accompany visiting a new place for the first time. I’ve always felt on edge until I’m settled at my destination.
Knowing that my choice of destination is going to offer my family, and families like ours, an enjoyable experience, was one of the main drivers behind launching Destination Rainbow
These concerns have only become more apparent since I became a mum. Knowing that my choice of destination is going to offer my family, and families like ours, an enjoyable experience, was one of the main drivers behind launching Destination Rainbow. Being open to questions and conversations about our family helps to bridge any concerns.
Many people we meet on our travels are more curious than concerned, and having honest conversations about our dynamic avoids negative interactions that might otherwise be driven from misunderstanding or misinterpretation.