As a Booking.com survey shows, the travel industry has far to go before it can truly claim inclusivity and a travel economy that values LGBTQ+ travelers.
The Skift India Newsletter is your go-to platform for all news related to travel, tourism, airlines, and hospitality in India.
Approximately 91 percent of LGBTQ+ travelers in India now consider their personal safety and well-being when selecting a travel destination, according to a Booking.com survey. This represents a significant increase from 70 percent reported in the previous year. The LGBTQ+ travel research conducted by Booking.com, now in its third year, sheds light on both the progress made and the recent setbacks faced by these communities in terms of travel experiences.
The survey findings indicate that mainstream news, including coverage of major international sporting and musical events, as well as celebrity and corporate sponsorships, have played a role in bringing discriminatory laws and viewpoints to the public’s attention. Consequently, these news stories have influenced the travel decisions of nearly 78 percent of Indian respondents. Concerns about attitudes, discrimination, and violence towards LGBTQ+ individuals have had a significant impact on their choice of travel destinations.
The Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in India, is presently examining a petition that questions the criminalization of same-sex marriage. Previously, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code had criminalized homosexuality until its removal in September 2018. However, despite the groundbreaking judgment almost five years ago, the current situation regarding LGBTQ+ rights in India remains challenging.
Around 64 countries criminalize same-sex relationships, and 11 nations have levied death penalty on them. A striking 80 percent of respondents in India firmly stated that destinations lacking support for LGBTQ+ individuals are completely off their travel radar. Despite having made travel bookings, 62 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals and 63 percent of transgender people have opted to cancel their trips in the past year upon discovering that a particular destination does not provide adequate support for their community.
Another significant challenge faced by LGBTQ+ travelers is the pervasive discrimination encountered throughout their entire journey. According to the survey findings, a notable 79 percent reported experiencing discrimination, with the figures escalating to 86 percent for transfeminine travelers and 83 percent for transmasculine travelers. This pervasive discrimination makes traveling for LGBTQ+ individuals uncomfortable and stressful.
According to Booking.com, travel companies play a crucial role as allies in creating inclusive environments and implementing inclusive policies for LGBTQ+ travelers. The survey reveals that 85 percent of Indian respondents prefer airlines and brands that have inclusive policies, including gender-neutral uniforms. Additionally, 86 percent of Indian respondents (compared to 72 percent last year) express a stronger inclination to book with LGBTQ+ owned brands.
The travel industry is clearly making progress in shifting attitudes and perceptions. The increased inclusivity within the industry has resulted in 91 percent of LGBTQ+ travelers in India feeling more comfortable while traveling. Furthermore, 87 percent of genderfluid or genderqueer sightseers now experience greater comfort while exploring.
However, despite the progress, there is still significant work to be done to cater to the needs of LGBTQ+ travelers. This is particularly true when it comes to providing LGBTQ+ specific guidance, which is still relatively less available. Around 40 percent of respondents expressed a desire for more information regarding the LGBTQ+ status of their destination, local laws, religious sensitivities, and safety tips.
Prior to the pandemic, the global value of LGBTQ+ travelers was estimated at a staggering $218 billion. Skift has consistently focused on marketing initiatives targeting LGBTQ+ travelers. Recently, Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden delved into Skift’s extensive coverage of LGBTQ+ travel over the years.
Trevolution Group’s Dreamport Empowers ‘Gig Workers‘
Trevolution Group, a company focused on agency sales of airline tickets and travel services, has launched Dreamport in India and Uzbekistan, which enables “gig workers” to get contracted as independent travel managers regardless of their physical location. India’s NITI Aayog defines “gig workers” as those engaged in work outside of the traditional employer-employee arrangement. In 2020-21, the Indian gig economy was estimated to employ 7.7 million workers, with a projected workforce of 23.5 million by 2029-30.
The group said that Dreamport offers a free training program to individuals, including freshers covering topics such as marketing, sales, customer service, travel industry standards and tools. Additionally, the platform provides customer leads to its travel managers to initiate sales. Through Dreamport, users receive travel requests from other Trevolution travel services such as Asaptickets and Skyluxtravel and earn a commission on each sale. According to Trevolution, Dreamport’s commission structure is highly competitive, enabling users to earn a substantial profit while performing services from home or anywhere in the country. Within less than a month of the soft launch, Dreamport has reportedly received over 1,500 applications.
Virgin Atlantic Launches Daily Direct London-Bengaluru
Virgin Atlantic is set to launch daily direct services between London Heathrow and Bengaluru from March 31, 2024. Boosting the international network, the new service will be the airline’s fourth daily service to India. As Virgin Atlantic returns to growth post pandemic, Bengaluru will complement its long-established double daily services between London Heathrow and Delhi, daily flying to Mumbai as well as its growing codeshare with low-cost carrier IndiGo, which covers 34 destinations across India. Since 2019, the airline has increased capacity to India by 250 percent, the airlines’ largest area of growth outside the U.S. With the launch of the Bengaluru route, the airline will offer almost 500,000 seats each year between the UK and India.
Lemon Tree Hotels Launches Two New Properties
India’s mid-market hotel chain Lemon Tree Hotels has announced the opening of two hotels in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra and Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal. With these two launches, the company debuts in both the cities and also adds more than 100 rooms to its inventory. Last month, the company signed a license agreement for an 82-room Lemon Tree Premier in Lucknow in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Earlier in April, the company signed franchise agreements for Lemon Tree Premier and Lemon Tree Resort, in Budhanilkantha and Lumbini in Nepal, respectively. Lemon Tree Hotels targets to operate over 300 hotels with a 20,000+ room network by calendar year 2028.
Go First Plans to Resume Operations
Cash-strapped airline Go First, which has been granted bankruptcy protection, plans to resume operations with its fleet of 26 operational aircraft and 400 pilots, an Indian daily reported. In its six-month revival plan submitted to Indian aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the carrier stated that it would resume operations on the Pune, Bagdogra and Goa routes. The airline has also offered to deploy two aircraft to start Delhi-Srinagar and Delhi-Leh chartered flights immediately. The carrier offered a monthly retention allowance of $1,211 to captains and $605 to first officers. Go Air has extended the suspension of its flight operations till June 7, the airline said in an update on its Twitter handle.
Skift India Report
The Skift India Report is your go-to newsletter for all news related to travel, tourism, airlines, and hospitality in India.
Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch
Photo credit: LGBTQ+ travellers in India consider personal safety when selecting a travel destination, says a Booking.com survey. 42 North / Pexels