En español | LGBTQ travelers and their families are a growing target market for the travel industry, with resorts, cruise lines and many new destinations now offering gay-friendly options.
The travel industry is “capitalizing on new interests and opportunities for people to be themselves all over the place and not just in limited destinations,” says Ed Salvato, co-founder of ManAboutWorld, a gay digital travel magazine.
Among the friendly spots, Salvato says, are some locations in the Caribbean; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Stockholm; Sydney; Los Angeles; Amsterdam; New York City; and Hawaii.
Puerto Rico, for example, recently made LGBTQ inclusivity a core pillar of its marketing campaign, Discover Puerto Rico, Salvato says.
Its website illustrates gay couples, highlights locally owned LGBTQ businesses, promotes gay events and conducts LGBTQ sensitivity training for staff at tourist destinations.
"This helps them really treat gay people equally in a warm welcome way ... Puerto Rico really goes above and beyond,” says Salvato.
For families, Salvato recommends R Family Vacations, a travel agency that directs LGBT families to friendly options. Specific locations include:
- Hawaii, where “the aloha spirit is so friendly and welcoming that you can go with your kids."
- Four Seasons Orlando — near Disney World, which promotes itself to the LGBTQ family market as a friendly resort.
- Provincetown, Mass., which is a traditional destination for gay travelers where a family week is now among the summer events offered (July 27-Aug. 3 this year).
"Queer families are just as likely to go where every other family is going. It's just making sure that queerness will not be an object of ridicule or unnecessary focus,” says Salvato.
LGBTQ travelers also may now find other increased options from cruise lines, travel groups, or hotels and resorts.
Atlantis Events says it is one of the world's largest producers of gay and lesbian cruises and resort vacations. The company bought RSVP, another LGBT cruise company, which tends to market to adults 50-plus, says Salvato.
Major cruise lines also can be an option for queer travelers.
"Every major cruise line — as well as smaller lines — not only welcome LGBTQ guests, but also have strict anti-discrimination policies in place on board to protect guests,” says Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of the online site Cruise Critic. “For the most part, lines across the board are welcoming to LGBTQ travelers, so what's best for each traveler will be heavily dependent on the individual's needs and expectations of the traveler."
She recommends that travelers look for particular onboard meet-ups, or fellow travelers or an agent to learn what the onboard experience and offerings will be.
But because some ports on a trip's itinerary may not reflect the experience on the ship, guests should familiarize themselves with how welcoming each destination may be.
Azamara Club, Celebrity and Crystal Cruises are among the 10 cruise lines that Cruise Critic recommends for gay and lesbian travelers.
"There are also dedicated gay hotels/resorts such as Island House in Key West and the gay-owned and -operated Brass Key Guesthouse in Provincetown,” says Sarah Schlichter, senior editor at SmarterTravel.
The online travel magazine recently put together a list of five gay-friendly, all-inclusive resorts that can serve as a suitable option outside of the long-term traditional locations, such as Provincetown and Key West.
Additionally, misterb&b, like Airbnb, provides short-term rentals of entire homes, rooms or apartments, but the host or owner is gay. The company also offers a curated database of gay and gay-friendly hotels.
"It connects the global community of gay hosts and guests, creates income for the LGBTQ community, and helps global gay travelers discover the best gay events,” says misterb&b cofounder and CEO Matt Jost.
It has 100,000 hosts in the U.S. and 400,000 globally, Jost says.
"We are seeing more and more people sign up because they want to be able to connect with the global gay community, and also because they want to be able to live a richer, better life.”
LGBTQ outdoor excursions serve as another vacation option for individuals hoping to connect with nature. The Venture Out Project offers different camping options to LGBTQ adults, teens and families.
"We have the whole campground to ourselves, and we go hiking, swimming, we have campfires and facilitated discussions for the adults at night around parenting and queerness,” says Travis Clough, director of operations.
The project's primary offerings are for adults. Hikes are usually around five miles, move at a slow pace, and special accommodations can be made for all experience levels.
"The idea behind the classic backpacking is really to get people out there to show them you can access the outdoors. We actually have all the gear. You can show up with your gym shorts on and your hiking boots and we'll get you out the door,” Clough says.
"It is vital and important for families and communities to come together in such an intimate space. I feel like wilderness and nature provides that space through camping. Nobody is on their phones. We are all sitting there actually talking to one another,” he says.