British LGBTQ+ travellers are more cautious than a year ago because of “polarising political decisions” and controversy in the news, according to research by Booking.com.
The online platform said: “Despite the travel industry’s growing recognition of the scope and variety of LGBTQ+ experiences, many travellers today still face enormous challenges.
“With a background of polarising political decisions in the past 12 months, personal safety has never been more of a focus, with four fifths (79%) of UK LGBTQ+ travellers reporting that they must consider their safety and wellbeing as an LGBTQ+ person when picking a destination – up significantly from 61% last year.
“This also increases for intersex (90%), genderfluid (90%), transfeminine (89%) and transmasculine (87%) travellers from across the world.”
The research commissioned by Booking.com was conducted among a sample of 11,555 LGBTQ+ travellers from 27 countries, including 1,004 from the UK.
Booking.com said: “The extensive study shows that mainstream news – from issues around recent major world sporting and music events to celebrity and corporate sponsorships – has put discriminatory legislation and views in the spotlight for many, impacting considerations around vacation decisions.
“Over three quarters (78%) of UK respondents admit that controversy in the news around attitudes, discrimination and violence towards people who identify as LGBTQ+ has had a big impact on their choice of destination.”
There are still 64 countries that criminalise same-sex relationships – including 11 where the death penalty can be imposed – meaning destinations such as these are out of the question for the majority of LGBTQ+ travellers, despite some playing host to major global events.
Just over half (55%) of UK respondents have experienced discrimination when travelling, increasing to 86% of transfeminine and 83% of transmasculine travellers.
For those who are transgender, travel can come with additional barriers, for example, if their gender identity, name or appearance does not match that of their passport.
While 62% of UK LGBTQ+ travellers admit that being an LGBTQ+ person has affected how they present themselves in terms of their clothing and make-up choices while travelling, this increases to three quarters (75%) for those that identify as transgender.
However, 65% feel that their experience of being LGBTQ+ in the UK makes them more confident as a traveller (up from 51% in 2022).
The report also highlights “active allyship” in the travel trade, noting: “The travel industry is clearly playing a part in shifting attitudes and perceptions.
“Over four fifths (82%) of UK LGBTQ+ travellers feel more comfortable travelling due to the increased inclusivity of the travel industry, increasing to 87% for genderfluid or genderqueer travellers.”
Since launching in 2021, Booking.com’s Travel Proud programme provides free inclusive hospitality training for accommodation to staff gain a better understanding of the specific challenges faced by LGBTQ+ travellers.
There are now more than 24,000 certified properties globally on Booking.com, with welcoming Travel Proud stays available in 118 countries and territories and more than 7,030 cities.
Arjan Dijk, chief marketing officer and senior vice-president at Booking.com, said: “In a world of increasing contradictions and instability, it’s no surprise that the LGBTQ+ travellers of today are simultaneously more cautious and more confident.
“I understand the self-confidence that comes from growing up and learning to navigate the world as a gay man, as well as the extra thought and consideration for safety and well-being that we see LGBTQ+ travellers continuing to grapple with in this research.
“While visibility, understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people has come a long way in recent years, we can’t take that progress for granted.
“The travel industry should strive to be a beacon of inclusion, helping foster an environment where everyone can flourish and thrive, whether exploring closer to home or travelling to the other side of the world.”