92% Indian LGBTQ+ travellers experience discrimination when travelling; 70% cancel trips: Research

When asked what features LGBTQ+ travellers would like to see from travel companies to improve their future travel experiences, 33% of Indian travellers referenced filters that would facilitate identifying properties that offer a welcoming experience, revealed Booking.com’s latest research.

The fourth edition of Booking.com’s LGBTQ+ travel research spotlights the continued challenges travellers face and how they are navigating these barriers to experience the world on their own terms.

The study reveals that 92% of Indian LGBTQ+ travellers have experienced discrimination when travelling, with some form of discriminatory behaviour from both their fellow travellers (79%) and locals at their chosen destinations (81%). In parallel, almost three-quarters (72%) agree that being LGBTQ+ has made them more insecure and self-conscious as a traveller. Despite these hurdles, LGBTQ+ travellers are taking ownership of their lived reality. From thoughtful destination decision-making to pre-booking plane seats and creating alter egos, LGBTQ+ travellers are taking more control of their trips more than ever before to safely navigate through these challenges and to find the best experiences.

How LGBTQ+ travellers are exploring the world and selecting destinations

When choosing a destination, accommodations that fit the budget is a primary concern for more than three-fourth (76%) of Indian LGBTQ+ travellers, the report says. After the primary financial considerations, 75% believe that being able to be their authentic self on their trip is their next most important factor. These concerns have had a clear influence on LGBTQ+ travellers’ perceptions and decision making.

When presented with the choice, 52% prefer to visit destinations where LGBTQ+ tourism is already well established and 77% have booked a trip in the past 12 months to a destination seen as supportive of residents who identify as LGBTQ+. 47% who would consider locations where their presence could contribute to broadening social awareness and acceptance. On the flip side, nearly 70% of Indian respondents cancelled a trip within the past year after seeing a destination being unsupportive of its LGBTQ+ residents.

Discrimination concerns, impacts journey as well as destination

Once the destination has been decided, LGBTQ+ travellers are taking additional proactive steps to mitigate concerns about potential discrimination while flying. More than half (63%) of Indian travellers have had a negative experience with a fellow flight passenger directly related to their identity, while 65% expressed apprehension at the idea of being seated next to a stranger in fear of their reaction or behaviour towards them as an LGBTQ+ individual. Consequently, 78% of LGBTQ+ travellers opt to select a specific seat in advance to minimise interaction with others for fear of discrimination, reveals the research.

Code-switching and travel personas

LGBTQ+ travellers are actively adopting personas to protect themselves on their trips. 77% of the Indian LGBTQ+ travellers say that they modify aspects of their appearance and behaviour to avoid potential discrimination or unwanted attention, while 82% have created an alter-ego to safely navigate different environments when travelling. The main reason for travellers in creating an alter-ego was to protect themselves and feel safe and adapt to cultural sensitivities that may exist at a destination

Travel industry allies elevate LGBTQ+ travel experience

Beyond their own decisions, LGBTQ+ travellers recognise the progress within the travel industry alongside their own decisions, with 77% of Indians saying increased inclusivity has made them feel more comfortable when travelling.

Travelling to destinations that have adequate legislation in place facilitates making them feel included and this is also reflected during their interactions with people who operate in the travel industry. 82% of Indian LGBTQ+ travellers feel comfortable when arriving to check in at their accommodation. Progressive attitudes towards LGBTQ+ in the hospitality and airline industry are further easing the Indian LGBTQ+ travellers mind, as 82% feel comfortable when having correspondence with accommodation hosts and airlines and 86% when interacting with hospitality professionals at their destination such as tour guides, flight attendants and taxi drivers. 

Additionally, when asked what features LGBTQ+ travellers would like to see from travel companies to improve their future travel experiences, 33% of Indian travellers referenced filters that would facilitate identifying properties that offer a welcoming experience.

“I am inspired to see LGBTQ+ travellers taking ownership of their lived experiences, as it is the only way for us to truly thrive and live life to the fullest – and it’s encouraging to see the supporting role our industry can play here,” shares Arjan Dijk, CMO and Senior Vice President at Booking.com. “However, despite great industry progress made since we launched the Travel Proud program, there is still much work to be done and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with partners across the globe to educate and enable positive change.”

In 2021, Booking.com launched the Travel Proud program to provide free inclusive hospitality training for accommodations to help them gain a better understanding of the specific challenges faced by LGBTQ+ travellers – as well as what can be done to make every guest feel more welcome, regardless of where they come from, who they love or how they identify. To date, there are over 67,000 certified properties across 133 countries and territories and in 12,645 cities and destinations.