Booking.com Reveals the Contrasting World of Caution and Confidence for LGBTQ+ Travelers in 2023
The most extensive LGBTQ+ travel research from Booking.com to date spotlights the rising concerns surrounding personal safety and how active allyship in the travel industry contributes to increasing traveler confidence
- Four in five (80%) LGBTQ+ travelers say they must consider their safety and wellbeing when picking a destination (up from 64% in 2022)
- As opposed to being fearful or insecure, 71% feel that being LGBTQ+ actually makes them more confident as a traveler (up from 62% in 2022)
- More than 24,000 properties globally, are now being recognized for their inclusive hospitality efforts with a Travel Proud badge on Booking.com
AMSTERDAM, 1 JUNE 2023: With a mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, regardless of who they love or how they identify, Booking.com’s most extensive LGBTQ+ travel research to date spotlights the steady progress, as well as the recent setbacks, for these communities when it comes to travel. Despite the travel industry’s growing recognition of the scope and variety of LGBTQ+ experiences, many travelers today still face enormous challenges. With a background of polarizing political decisions in the past 12 months, personal safety has never been more of a focus, with four fifths (80%) of LGBTQ+ travelers reporting that they must consider their safety and wellbeing as an LGBTQ+ person when picking a destination – up significantly from 64% last year. This also increases for intersex (90%), genderfluid (90%), transfeminine (89%) and transmasculine (87%) travelers.
Conducted amongst 11,555 LGBTQ+ travelers across 27 countries and territories around the world, 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. Nearly three quarters (71%) of 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, with LGBTQ+ travelers from Australia (84%), Hong Kong (82%) and the US (79%) indicating that they are the most cautious.
A regressive revolution
This step backwards means that personal safety is now an increased point of discussion for LGBTQ+ people when planning travel, particularly amongst those who are transgender. Worldwide, there are still 64 countries that criminalize same-sex relationships – including 11 where the death penalty can be imposed – meaning destinations like these are out of the question for the majority of LGBTQ+ travelers, despite some playing host to major global events. Nearly two thirds (64%) say that some destinations are completely off-limits, rising to 74% for transgender travelers who reportedly face a disproportionately higher rate of discrimination and violence around the world. Even after booking trips, LGBTQ+ travelers remain vigilant, with two fifths (41%) having canceled a trip in the past year after seeing a destination not supporting those who identify as LGBTQ+, rising significantly to 63% for those who are transgender.
Discrimination remains a key concern across the entire travel experience, with the majority (58%) of respondents having experienced discrimination when traveling, increasing to 86% of transfeminine and 83% of transmasculine travelers. Out of all LGBTQ+ travelers:
- 29% reveal that they have been subjected to stereotyping, rising to 51% for genderfluid or genderqueer travelers
- One in five (20%) say they have been stared at, laughed at or verbally abused by other travelers. This is highest amongst pansexual travelers (26%) and lesbian travelers (23%)
- A similar number (18%) share that they have faced the same but by locals at their travel destination, rising to 23% for lesbian travelers and 22% for both queer and pansexual travelers
- While 13% report that they have been threatened or intimidated by local law enforcement, this rises to nearly one in three (32%) for intersex travelers and nearly one in four (24%) for transgender travelers
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 LGBTQ+ travelers admit that being an LGBTQ+ person has impacted how they present themselves in terms of their clothing and make-up choices while traveling, this increases to three quarters (75%) for those that identify as transgender. What’s more, while 19% of LGBTQ+ travelers have had someone incorrectly assume their gender or pronouns, twice as many (38%) transgender travelers have experienced this.
While traveling can instill a sense of freedom and self expression, a significant proportion of LGBTQ+ people still feel restricted. Almost a third (32%) have felt that they need to change their behavior to avoid judgment or awkward interactions with others (up from 22% in 2022), while 25% have felt they need to change their appearance to avoid the same (up from 16% in 2022). This affects the younger generation the most, with 40% of Gen Z LGBTQ+ travelers feeling they need to change their behavior and 32% feeling the need to change their appearance.
Even traveling to destinations where they feel there is adequate legislation to protect their rights, a proportion of LGBTQ+ travelers still feel uneasy across the entire trip experience – especially versus those destinations with less than adequate legislation. For example:
LGBTQ+ travelers who feel uncomfortable in destinations with adequate legislation:
LGBTQ+ travelers who feel uncomfortable in destinations with less than adequate legislation:
While going through airport security
While hailing a taxi
While eating outside of their hotel
While showing ID for events
While going out late in the evenings
While participating in guided tours with groups of other tourists
Transforming caution into confidence
While personal safety concerns have a key impact on destination choices for LGBTQ+ communities at large (39%), other key motivations for travel play a very strong role, with beautiful natural scenery (49%), tasty local cuisine (45%) and great beaches (40%) rounding out the top elements that have the greatest impact on destination choices.
Despite the headlines and significant challenges that persist in many destinations, 71% feel that their experience of being LGBTQ+ actually makes them more confident as a traveler (up from 62% in 2022), with transfeminine (83%) and transmasculine (81%) the most confident travelers out of the different LGBTQ+ gender identities. It’s also refreshing that, when it comes to experiences on vacation, 83% of LGBTQ+ travelers feel confident to partake in any activities they want. The majority of LGBTQ+ travelers (65%) are more likely to seek out attractions and activities that are tailored to people identifying as LGBTQ+. For example, Booking.com has a range of LGBTQ+ specific activities available to travelers around the world, from guided walks around the vibrant streets of the Marais in Paris and Asakusa and 2-Chome in Tokyo to an informative tour in New York documenting how LGBTQ+ communities have helped shape the Chelsea district into the thriving urban neighborhood that it is today.
Positive travel experiences are proving far more common too and, no doubt, increasing the confidence of LGBTQ+ communities. Over four fifths (82%) of LGBTQ+ travelers say they have experienced some form of positive interaction, and specifically when it comes to those interactions with places to stay:
- 42% have had friendly and informative correspondence with the accommodation ahead of arrival (up from 25% in 2022)
- 47% of travelers say they have had great first impressions on arrival such as welcome drinks and friendly staff (up from 31% in 2022)
Active allyship in the travel industry
The travel industry is clearly playing a part in shifting attitudes and perceptions. Nearly four fifths (78%) of LGBTQ+ travelers feel more comfortable traveling due to the increased inclusivity of the travel industry, increasing to 87% for genderfluid or genderqueer travelers. What’s more, 78% of LGBTQ+ travelers actively enjoy the experience of booking trips – only 5% less than Booking.com’s Travel Trends research which spoke to all travelers.**
Still, the research shows there’s much more to be done to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ travelers. While guidance and information on the local area at check-in is common (40%), being offered LGBTQ+ specific guidance is much less frequent, with only 16% having experienced this. One third (34%) would like to receive information on the LGBTQ+ status of the location, such as local laws, religious sensibilities and tips on where to go to be safe, rising significantly to 51% for travelers who identify as trans* and genderfluid or genderqueer.
There is a clear need for travel companies to show up as allies to implement policies that are inclusive and welcoming for LGBTQ+ travelers:
- 65% research travel brands and experiences before they travel to understand the role they play in supporting people who identify as LGBTQ+
- 66% say they are more likely to book travel and experiences with brands who are LGBTQ+ owned than those who are not (up from 55% in 2022) with queer (73%) and pansexual (71%) travelers more likely to do so
- 69% agree that they are more likely to favor airlines and brands with inclusive policies (e.g. gender neutral uniforms), rising to 86% for transmasculine and 83% for transfeminine travelers
Since launching in 2021, Booking.com’s Travel Proud program provides free inclusive hospitality training for accommodations to help them gain a better understanding of the specific challenges faced by LGBTQ+ travelers, as well as what can be done to make every guest feel more welcome, regardless of where they come from, who they love or how they identify. The training is now available in English, Italian, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and German, with training sessions available in all languages at least once a week. 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 over 7,030 cities.
“In a world of increasing contradictions and instability, it’s no surprise that the LGBTQ+ travelers of today are simultaneously more cautious and more confident,” says Arjan Dijk, CMO and Senior Vice President at Booking.com. “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+ travelers continuing to grapple with in this research. At Booking.com, we believe that everyone should be able to experience the world as themselves, always. 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 traveling to the other side of the world.”
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 11,555 LGBTQ+ travelers from 27 countries and territories including: Argentina (209), Australia (608), Belgium (206), Brazil (508), Canada (803), Colombia (309), Croatia (206), Denmark (201), France (1000), Germany (1011), Hong Kong (204), India (403), Israel (206), Italy (602), Japan (407), Mexico (307), Netherlands (511), New Zealand (209), Singapore (210), Spain (408), Sweden (203), Switzerland (202), Taiwan (205), Thailand (210), United Kingdom (1004), United States (1003), Vietnam (200). LGBTQ+ respondents self identified across demographics of sex, gender and sexual orientation. In order to participate in this survey, respondents also had to be planning a trip in the next 12 months. The survey was taken online in March and April 2023.
**Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 42,513 respondents across 33 markets (2,000 from USA, 1,008 from Canada, 2,000 from Mexico, 1,000 from Colombia, 2,000 from Brazil, 1,000 from Argentina, 2,000 from Australia, 1,000 from New Zealand, 2,000 from Spain, 2,000 from Italy, 2,000 from France, 2,000 from UK, 2,000 from Germany, 1,000 from Netherlands, 1,000 from Denmark, 1,000 from Sweden, 1,000 from Croatia, 1,000 from Switzerland, 1,000 from Belgium, 1,000 from Ireland, 1,000 from Portugal, 1,000 from Israel, 2,000 from India, 1,000 from China, 1,005 from Hong Kong, 1,000 from Thailand, 1,000 from Singapore, 1,000 from Taiwan, 1,000 from Vietnam, 1,000 from South Korea, 1,000 from Japan, 500 from UAE). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have traveled at least once in the past 12 months, and planning to travel in 2023 and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place in January and February 2023.
Part of Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG), Booking.com’s mission is to make it easier for everyone to experience the world. By investing in the technology that helps take the friction out of travel, Booking.com’s marketplace seamlessly connects millions of travelers with memorable experiences every day. For more information, follow @bookingcom on social media or visit globalnews.booking.com.