Ready for TAKEOFF

LGBTQ+ travel in 2022
By Matthew Bradford
Dean Nelson attends the 2022 PROUD Experiences LGBTQ+ tourism event in NYC.
After years of lockdowns, travel restrictions and pandemicdelayed plans, many in the LGBTQ+ community are eager to spread their wings. With activity on the rise, now is a good time for a snapshot of current trends, challenges and opportunities within the LGBTQ+ travel industry.
“People are excited to get out there,” affirms Dean Nelson, Travel Curator and Consultant, Departures X Dean.
A travel industry veteran, Nelson is eyeing several trends among LGBTQ+ travellers. Among them is a desire to break away from familiar surroundings and make up for missed plans: “Quite a few of my clients postponed their honeymoons or a milestone birthday before the pandemic, and now they’re saying ‘let’s do this,’ which is very exciting to see.”
Couples with young children or those on the verge of starting a family are also among today’s top travellers.
“This is their last big holiday adventure before they start having kids, so they want to have this amazing experience,” adds Nelson. “That, or they are new parents and want to finally get some romantic time by themselves.”


Travel industry professionals are busier than ever helping LGBTQ+ jetsetters narrow down the best locations for their trips. Today, the most popular destinations include countries across Europe (e.g., Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany and Greece), the South Pacific, Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco.
“These are all very popular and interesting places to go right now,” Nelson reports. “Some of those countries are not very favourable to our community, so it’s beneficial to work with travel partners to help navigate those spaces and stay safe.”
Sure enough, safety remains a focus for LGBTQ+ travellers. And while there is a diverse range of LGBTQ+-friendly locations like Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Costa Rica (to name a few), the unfortunate reality is there are still a number of destinations that are less welcoming – or downright hostile – to LGBTQ+ tourists. As such, travellers are advised to brush up on their destination’s cultural norms and decency laws or consult with an agent on precautionary tips for less LGBTQ+-friendly locations.
Part of travelling safely means practicing common sense. That includes wearing appropriate attire when visiting religious or culturally significant areas, treating locals with respect or forgoing public displays of affection in places where such actions can attract negative attention (e.g., Saudi Arabia). Then, there are extra steps same-sex couples may need to keep in mind in places where even being identified as gay might attract negative reactions.
Dean on a safari in Kenya in 2019.
For example, says Nelson, “If you’re a same-sex couple going to the Middle East, even though you intend to sleep in only one bed, you may want to order two just because you won’t want to raise any eyebrows among the front office staff or housekeeping.”
“Gay or straight, there are always countries that are a little bit more challenging to navigate,” he adds. “But if you understand the culture and what’s expected of visitors, you’ll have a much better experience.”


LGBTQ+ travellers have several online resources to help plan a safe, engaging and memorable trip. They include:
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA):
International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA):
Asher & Lyric LGBTQ+ Travel Index:
Dean boards a Virgin Voyages cruise departing from Miami.


The travel industry has a significant role to play in facilitating safer and more inclusive experiences for the LGBTQ+ community. Part of that role means simply recognizing that those experiences can – and often do – differ from those experienced by heterosexual travellers.
“When people go through training with me, there are a lot of ‘aha’ moments where they realize that a cis-heterosexual person really does have more privilege when travelling that they may not even be aware of,” says Nelson. “That’s when the light bulb goes off and they say, ‘Yeah, we can do better.’”
“Doing better” means understanding and taking proactive measures against barriers that LGBTQ+ clients might face, engaging in respectful dialogue (e.g., using proper pronouns) or even checking in on guests to make sure they’re having a good time. It could also entail getting in contact with destination service providers to ensure they’re doing what they can on their end to ensure a positive experience.
“I like to check in with hotel properties that I might not have worked with in the past and give them a heads up that LGBTQ+ clients are going to be visiting the property,” says Nelson. “For me, it’s just about making sure they’re aware of that and seeing if they have any questions or if there’s any advice I can offer to help them feel comfortable.”


Thinking about packing your bags? You’re not alone. If the images of crowded airports and packed tourist destinations are any indication, travel is booming. And if there’s one piece of advice Nelson would offer to anyone planning a trip, it would be to bring some patience.
“Travel has changed significantly. All the privileges that we’ve had prepandemic are no longer guaranteed or in play,” he says. “I think some of us have forgotten that. If you’re going on a trip, pack your manners, your patience and a sense of humour. That way, we’ll all have a much better time.”