October is LGBT history month in the United States, and Oyster is kicking things off with the introduction of our gay-friendly travel section. The LGBTQIA community has its own set of travel concerns, so fortunately there are countless organizations that have established guidelines to ensure that traveling gays and lesbians are safe, welcome, and happy in their travels.
TAG and the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) are two organizations devoted to setting standards for gay-friendly tourism and holding businesses accountable for the welfare of their clientele, no matter their sexual orientation. For example, hotel standards established by TAG include staff trained in diversity, a commitment to acting as “watchdogs” for gay travelers, and a strict enforcement of non-discrimination policies for all guests. Similarly, IGLTA works to encourage gay and lesbian travel by collaborating with hotels, cruise lines, casinos, and other travel-related companies to demonstrate the positive “social and economic impact” of LGBT tourism. In our travels, we've found that the most gay-friendly destinations and accommodations not only display tolerance in their business and social practices, but also welcome and encourage diversity and have a visible LGBT scene.
LGBT Scene -- Like all tourists, gay and lesbian travelers are mindful of local and cultural activities, and many LGBT travelers also seek out attractions specific to them, such as gay-friendly clubs or beaches. There are reasons that San Francisco and New York rank among the most gay-friendly vacation spots, as both have noted “gay districts” featuring a myriad of same-sex activities such as lesbian bars and gay theater, as well as numerous local groups that cater to the LGBT community through social and political means. Puerto Vallarta is also one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the world, offering the famed gay-friendly Blue and Green Chairs beach, in addition to B&Bs, hotels, resorts, and eco-tours that exclusively market to gay and lesbian travelers.
Tolerance – All travelers -- gay, straight, and everything in between -- want a safe and secure experience. Gay and queer travelers often favor businesses that practice tolerance toward women, LGBT travelers, and other minority communities. One of TAG’s qualifications requires approved companies' employees to treat homosexual couples in the same regard as heterosexual couples, a policy known as Domestic Partner Benefits. The Wynn Las Vegas was the first hotel in Las Vegas to offer benefits for same-sex couples, as well as the first to require all staff members to undergo sensitivity training and education.
Diversity Welcome – Going one step beyond tolerance, businesses and governments must welcome diversity and reach out to different groups in order to be gay-friendly. Many LGBT travelers seek environments that not only accommodate all lifestyles, but also encourage a diverse public. Canada and Denmark, for example, have both legalized same-sex marriage, and both countries have tourism industries that reach out to same-sex travelers and provide comprehensive guides on gay travel. Jamaica and several other Caribbean nations have outlawed gay marriage and homosexual male acts, so businesses in destinations such as these are unable to market themselves to the gay community and thus are considered less welcoming to diversity.
Keep your eyes peeled for more LGBT travel info -- including family-friendly spots and party locales -- on Oyster.com soon!