When it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, most of us consider European countries to be among the world’s most progressive. European Union legislation protects against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, same-sex sexual activity is legal in all 28 EU member states, and 22 of those countries support same-sex civil unions or full marriage equality.
Naturally these factors appeal to queer travelers, along with so many other reasons to visit European countries. But there remains room for tourism growth in both established gay-friendly destinations and in many European nations still striving for greater equality.
To better understand some of the challenges—and ultimately to help with expanding LGBTQ+ travel across Europe—the IGLTA Foundation conducted a study this spring in partnership with the European Travel Commission (ETC).
The “Study on the LGBTQ+ Travel Segment in Europe” polled and interviewed gay consumers in the ETC’s key long-haul markets: Brazil, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Questions spanned basic background information along with specific reasons why consumers choose particular destinations, how LGBTQ+ rights and culture influence their travel planning, and whether queer-oriented marketing campaigns affect their decision making.
Similar to the Global Report on LGBTQ+ Tourism, which was first conducted by IGLTA and the UN World Tourism Organization in 2012, this European study will help ETC members and partners understand our ever-evolving market segment.
The ETC consists of 33 national tourism-promotion agencies in Europe, and it’s fair to say that many of them sense the potential of the LGBTQ+ market; however, due to cultural or political reasons some have not yet engaged with it. With the help of our research specialist Peter Jordan, the study is designed to address business and tourism challenges in this area. Using insights gathered from a large-scale consumer survey generously hosted by Hornet as well as 20 interviews with industry professionals, it specifically examines the characteristics of gay travelers; spots business and consumer trends; and tracks perceptions, motivations, and interests in European travel planning.
In some destinations, for example, there’s a tendency to think that because a city doesn’t have a clear history of LGBTQ+ acceptance or significant queer events, that it may not be of interest to LGBTQ+ travelers. This study specifically explores such notions, and will show a clearer picture of what motivates LGBTQ+ people to travel today. We hope that such knowledge will help businesses and tourism bureaus cultivate more welcoming environments for all travelers.
Results from the study will be presented on 21 June at the Hilton Brussels Grande Place. It will be a key element of the full-day event hosted by the ETC (which funded the study), IGLTA, and VisitFlanders—all of it focused on aspects of LGBTQ+ tourism in Europe. When the full report is published as the Handbook on LGBTQ+ Tourism in Europe, we’ll make it freely available to IGLTA members on our website.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned at IGLTA, it’s that LGBTQ+ travelers tend to be curious and adventurous. We’re eager to explore new destinations, and to support companies who support us. IGLTA is proud to work with the ETC and its partners for this project because we know they’re committed to understanding the dynamic, thriving queer travel market. And we believe that through this first study, LGBTQ+ travelers can look forward to seeing a broader, more inclusive future across Europe.
Photo credits: ETC & visit.brussels - Eric Danhier