James Whitaker Travel Designers Agent Insight

Ticking all the right boxes when selling LGBT holidays

James Whitaker-Sheppard of Travel Designers shows what agents can do to ensure LGBT couples a great holiday experience.

This June marked 50 years since the Stonewall riots. As a gay man, I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a liberal, accepting country, but even here in the UK, homophobia is sadly alive and well and we still hear of examples of it in the media.

Organising holidays for the LGBT traveller is usually no different to serving anyone else. They often know what they want, where they want to go and what they wish to spend. Sometimes, however, you have to wonder; at what point should we, the travel agents, be making them aware of anti-gay laws and homophobic attitudes in certain destinations.

You could argue it’s down to the client to research this, but I feel we have a duty to inform clients, tactfully, if we know they may encounter negativity. It then, ultimately, has to be their decision if a destination is right for them or not.

Over the years my husband and I have visited a host of particularly gay-friendly destinations, and some less so, but we have been very fortunate in not encountering any obvious homophobia thus far. Some of the more gayfriendly destinations we have visited include Mexico, USA, Australia, Gran Canaria, and Thailand. We’ve also had positive experiences in countries where you may expect LGBT people to encounter difficulties, such as the Maldives, Mauritius, St Lucia, Bali and Jamaica.

Destinations that I would feel obliged to make my LGBT customers aware of possible issues or negativity, and in some instances, possible criminal charges, include the UAE, Russia, Egypt, Tanzania and Kenya.

But the rule of thumb is that all destinations are accessible to everyone. But it is important for everyone to be mindful of public displays of affection. ‘LGBT’ is not stamped in passports, but customers may just need to be careful. Don’t be afraid to be honest and don’t be afraid to send a gay couple to somewhere they want to go, as long as you discuss the positives and negatives with them. It’s ultimately their choice.

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