Academic research on LGBTQ+ tourism

IUBH graduate Rebecca researched the travel behaviour of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people for her Bachelor’s thesis and provides some tips on how destinations can better meet their needs.


My name is Rebecca. I successfully completed my studies at IUBH and am currently studying Arabic in Lebanon. For my Bachelor’s thesis in the International Tourism Management degree programme, I researched “The development of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travel and how destinations can increase their attractiveness for this niche market”. Since the LGBTQ+ community tends to be fond of travelling and affluent, a travel market specialising in this community has evolved.

For my research, I conducted several interviews with LGBTQ+ focused tour operators in Thailand, Mexico, the US, India and Israel. And I started an online survey in the community, which already yielded hundreds of responses in the first five hours after publication. The positive response shows how much the LGBTQ+ community appreciates the fact that I’m focusing academic research on this topic.

The main issue is safety: People want to travel without dangers and discrimination LBGTQ

Probably the most important issue for the travel behaviour of the LGBTQ+ community is the various national laws and regulations. After all, all forms of homosexuality and bisexuality continue to be illegal in 72 countries today – in some it is even punishable by death. The majority of the people I surveyed would never travel to a country where discriminatory laws apply. However, legislative changes such as the introduction of same-sex marriage have reinforced their desire to travel to certain destinations. For example, same-sex weddings in New York City alone generated around $ 260 million in the first year after the law came into effect. It’s not just the LGBTQ+ community that benefits from the new marriage rights; the economy does as well. However, there are only 27 countries that have implemented same-sex marriage rights.

LGBTQ+ events as a travel magnet

My Bachelor’s thesis also shows that LGBTQ+ related events are very important for the tourism sector. This includes sporting events such as the “GayGames” and the “EuroGames”, as well as LGBTQ+ parades or festivals. These events attract millions of visitors every year. More than three-quarters of those I interviewed have participated in LGBTQ+ events around the world. Australia’s “Mardi Gras” is the world’s largest cultural festival for the LGBTQ+ community, attracting more than half a million visitors from all over the world to Sydney every year. São Paulo in Brazil is also a popular destination for the community: The largest gay pride parade in the world takes place there every year, with more than three million participants.

Top destinations for gays and lesbians

The destinations that people associate most with the LGBTQ+ community are San Francisco (“the city that invented gays”), Amsterdam (the first city to allow same-sex marriages), Fort Lauderdale (transgender) and Berlin. Greek islands such as Mykonos and Lesbos (where the term “lesbian” comes from) are also hotspots for lesbian travellers. Gran Canaria and Sitges are the main destinations for gay men. Gay men tend to be more inclined to travel to so-called “gay spaces” than lesbian couples. Lesbians tend to focus more on a relaxed, family-friendly environment when planning travel. This is because they are more likely to have children and are less likely to be recognised as homosexual.

Exciting news for travel providers: the LGBTQ+ tourism market is growing

All in all, my research has shown that the demand for LGBTQ+ tourism has increased in recent years, which is primarily related to new LGBTQ+ friendly laws. In order to increase the attractiveness of tour operators for the LGBTQ+ community, first and foremost they should ensure a friendly, protective LGBTQ+ policy. Offering LGBTQ+ events at the travel destination is also a strong draw fro the community. The fact is: The more tolerant society becomes, the less important it is to differentiate when it comes to travel. But since the likelihood that the LGBTQ+ community will be fully accepted is unfortunately very low, LGBTQ+ tourism will continue to be relevant to the travel market.


Rebecca is 22 years old and completed her Double Bachelor’s degree in International Tourism Management at IUBH and ICMS in Sydney. In addition to traveling and learning languages, she enjoys photography, playing tennis and doing ballet and judo in her free time. LGBTQ+ tourism is close to her heart because she, her friends and relatives are part of the community.

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