People in the LGBTQ+ community have long valued travel more than our straight/cisgender counterparts. Part of that is because so many of us have had to leave our homes and go elsewhere in order to be ourselves, find others like us, and celebrate our natural fabulousness. We’re also more interested in and open to experiencing something different from what our hometown offers, and that has led us to explore and engage with the world — and spend more money and time to do so.
That spirit remains vibrant despite the pandemic. A recent report by the IGLTA, an international LGBTQ+ travel association, shows that getting out into the world remains a high priority for queer folks. And we’ve shown that by leading the charge back to favorite destinations.
“Gays lead, and the rest follow,” Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, which represents all segments of the industry, told the National LGBT Media Association earlier this year.
Of course, as the past 18 months show, we can’t predict the future and the Earth is shifting under our feet. So, what will 2022 bring for queer travel?
WE ARE FAMILY!
After being sequestered from our extended families, people are looking to spend more time with parents and friends who are farther away. A rising number of LGBTQ+ vacationers are bringing along adult children, siblings, parents, and grandparents.
Small group on camel caravan in Sahara desert.
Gone are the days where many want to join 10,000 other people sardined into a single venue. More and more tourists are looking for small, inherently intimate experiences and tours.
The half in-person, half digital events are here to stay. Instead of a half million visitors, this year’s WorldPride saw tens of thousands and held 100 events online. Expect more to follow.
WE’RE HERE, GET USED TO IT
It took a lot of work to get the travel industry to not just accept gay and lesbian tourists but start catering to our particular needs and interests. Now it’s time for trans, nonbinary, BIPOC, plus-sized, and disabled travelers to be embraced for who we are.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PRIVILEGE
2020 has woken more of us up to the privileges we have — and how those privileges come at the cost of others and therefore carry a responsibility. The freedom of unrestricted travel is indeed a privilege most of the world will never experience. More of us now want the places and people we support to help make LGBTQ+ lives — especially queer people of color’s lives — better.
Volunteers plant mangrove trees in Thailand.
Last year didn’t just bring us a global pandemic, it also brought new awareness of social inequalities and new urgency in addressing the climate crisis. Those elements have given credence to the new “regenerative” travel movement that aims to enrich destinations and their local communities.
Luxury used to evoke images of gold taps, silk sheets, personal space, and concierge services. Now luxuries (especially space) are being redefined as essentials. More everyday people are chartering jets. Luxury travelers want once-in-a-lifetime experiences, sustainability, itineraries curated specifically for them, and contactless stays.
Rather than jetting off for a weekend of drug-fueled quickies, more and more Americans — even the gayest and horniest among us — are reevaluating where and how we travel. Many travelers feel safer behind the wheel, even if that limits their reach or increases the time getting somewhere. Sometimes the journey is more powerful than the destination.
With international travel on pause and a common desire to limit our exposure to other people and indoor events, road trips, weekend getaways, and RVing will continue to increase in popularity.
INTO THE WILD
With the emphasis on social distancing continuing, outdoor activities are gaining interest. An increasing number of LGBTQ+ people are venturing into the great outdoors: biking, hiking, camping, and embracing water sports.
Keeping up a brick-and-mortar location is expensive, especially when you may have to close or curtail your business unexpectedly. Expect more food trucks and popup parties like those put on by Chelcea Stowers. Also expect more micro-events and personal experiences that come to you.
SAFETY REMAINS IMPORTANT
Travel safety isn’t a new buzzword for a community that has long had to worry about anti-LGBTQ+ violence, discrimination, and harassment. We’ll continue to choose our destinations carefully and gravitate to places and people who make us feel safe.
Cruise ships may have done more than any other segment of the travel industry to prevent infections, but that hasn’t kept numerous passengers and crew from testing positive. Yet they have prevented big outbreaks on board. Fans of VACAYA, RSVP, Olivia, R Family Vacations, and others are likely to still queue up, even when others are still nervous about doing so.