LoAnn Halden, the Vice President of Communications at IGLTA (International LGBTQ+ Travel Association), hosted a global panel at World Travel Market Africa (WTM) in Cape Town on Monday, April 3 2023. The Equal Africa panel included speakers from Kenya, South Africa, the USA, and Spain. They addressed the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ travellers and discussed how the travel community and professionals could better support them and relook marketing efforts to attract them to their destinations.
The panel’s diversity helped to shed light on the global perspective of these issues, which included the following:
The LGBTQ+ community is diverse
“When you are talking to an LGBTQ+ traveller, you are not talking to one person,” says Halden, “and like all travellers, they want to feel safe, appreciated and welcome at a destination,” she said.
Michael Gladwin, founder of Afrigay Travel, further explained the LGBTQ+ community is incredibly diverse, encompassing a wide range of individuals with varying identities, experiences, and backgrounds. It includes people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and many other gender and sexual identities. Each individual has unique experiences and challenges, but they all fall under one umbrella, he said.
“It is important to recognise and celebrate this diversity, as it helps to create a more inclusive and supportive community for all LGBTQ+ individuals,” says Gladwin.
The travel community now has a diversity standard
In a world first, tourism now has a diversity standard accredited by the IGLTA, which promotes inclusivity. The IGLTA Accredited Program assures LGBTQ+ travellers that accredited businesses have taken steps to ensure total inclusivity. This independent auditing process is a great next step for companies and provides visitors with a stamp of approval for safe, inclusive spaces. “The accreditation gives travellers the surety that the company they are supporting has really done the deep work to ensure they are fully inclusive,” says Gladwin.
Consider inclusivity for minorities
When marketing to the LGBTQ+ market, social entrepreneur, Mandima Qunta suggests we should “make the circle bigger”. She emphasises the importance of including black women in our marketing efforts, stating, “we are never going to effect change if we only reach out to the same people.” She notes that there is a hierarchy of access within the gay community, which tends to prioritise gay men. “We must look beyond this limited perspective to truly collaborate with the community,” she continued.
According to Qunta, working with a diverse range of individuals, rather than those with a profile or a big social following, will bring fresh perspectives to our campaigns. “Having a voice or an opportunity to collaborate can be challenge for queer black women. They may not have a large online presence but make significant contributions to their communities,” says Qunta, adding that uplifting the LGBTQ+ community, means “taking everyone with you on the journey”.
Safety is an issue but also an opportunity
According to Rodney Otieno, the co-founder of the Queer & Allied Chamber of Commerce Africa (QACC Africa), the past decade has seen progress towards diversity in Africa. However, he believes Uganda’s recent decision to criminalise LGBTQ+ individuals is a step backwards. “Although we’re making cultural advancements, our legal system is regressing,” he explains. When travelling to specific areas in Africa, personal safety is crucial for LGBTQ+ travellers, he said, and tourism professionals have an important role to make them feel welcome, comfortable and safe. “It’s important to ensure that your policies are inclusive and that your staff receive proper diversity training to assist with this,” says Otieno.
He continues that for those African countries that have inclusive policies this is an opportunity to promote their country as a safe and comfortable place for LGBTQ+ travellers.
It’s the small changes that we make that can have the biggest impact, said Qunta. “Pronouns matter because they are a form of welcome. When someone asks my pronoun it feels like they are trying to get to know me, and it’s showing some form of respect. The language that we use can be an important part of making a traveller feel safe in a space,” she said.
She also highlighted that a very positive starting point for those addressing transformation is to introduce gender neutral bathrooms.