I think we can all agree that the term
“gay-friendly” and the increase in its usage is a good thing.
It’s wonderful to see businesses that openly support and welcome
Unfortunately, bigotry is still
pervasive and pops up every day in places you’d never expect. So a
rainbow sticker or flag in a window can go a long way in making
people feel safe.
But, what exactly does the term
“gay-friendly” mean when it comes to travel? Does throwing the
term into your hotel or resort listing mean that every member of your
staff understands what that means in practice? Should you
differentiate between gay-owned and gay-friendly? Where’s the line
between marketing and philosophy?
As a brand new hotel owner, these are a
few of the questions that have been on my mind lately and that I
thought should be answered.
Marketing vs. Reality
As much as we’d all like to believe
that all labels of gay-friendly were genuine and reflected the
beliefs of the owners and staff, it’s clear that the pure pursuit
of the so-called Pink Dollar is real. It’s a sad reality that some
businesses willy-nilly call themselves gay-friendly when the only
thing they’re friendly to is the sizeable disposable income of many
It’s for this reason that you should
not take the term at face value. Take, for example, Matt DeLava and
his partner Eric Diaz, who traveled to a Cancun resort that was
listed on Expedia as gay-friendly. Well, it wasn’t. The couple,
who got engaged on what was supposed to be a very romantic trip,
repeatedly faced bigotry, verbal abuse and blatant disrespect from
everyone from a waiter all the way up to the general manager.
DeLava told his story on the Huffington
Post and eventually got the resort taken off of Expedia’s
gay-friendly list, but that couldn’t take away the humiliation of
being told he couldn’t hold hands with his new fiancé at dinner or
that the hotel didn’t allow two men to share a bed. Obviously
there’s much more to being a gay-friendly hotel than a label on a
Gay-Owned vs. Gay-Friendly
Some businesses make a distinction
between being gay-friendly and gay-owned, and it’s certainly one
worth noting. Now, that doesn’t mean that only hotels owned by an
active LGBT person should be considered when you travel. On the
contrary – that would be quite limiting and would end up excluding
some amazing accommodations.
But, if you’ve been burned in the
past or are wary about the gay-friendly label, seeking out a property
that’s gay-owned and operated can be a good way to ensure that
you’ll be staying in an environment where you feel safe and
respected. Another benefit is that these hotels often have their
finger more squarely on the pulse of the local LGBT scene and can
better provide local recommendations they’ve experienced firsthand.
Much of the United States has become
fairly progressive about sexuality and many countries are way ahead
of us on that front. But there are still lots of travel-worthy
destinations around the globe that are positively prehistoric in
their social attitudes. While that shouldn’t necessarily
discourage you from going there, it does mean that you may have to do
a bit more digging when it comes to finding a truly gay-friendly
place to stay.
Countries that are very traditional
and/or religiously conservative tend to also be quite conservative
about sexuality. In some places, legislation still exists that finds
homosexuality to be a crime that can result in jail time or worse.
And let’s face it, no trip is worth risking jail time in a foreign
country. Before you visit any country that’s considered socially
conservative, seek out other gay travelers who can share their
experience and advice with you.
How to Know
So, it all comes down to this: Just
how can you tell if a place is really gay-friendly or not? Well,
there are several ways. But the point is that you should definitely
go beyond checking for a “gay-friendy” label on a web listing for
a place. Here are some tips that should help you find the facts:
Word of Mouth – One of the best ways
to know for sure is simply to talk to other gay travelers who can
give you the lowdown. Find gay travel message boards and post
message inquiring about a specific hotel or hotel suggestions in your
destination. And be sure to mention what matters to you – if you
and your partner often hold hands or kiss in public, ask what
people’s experience with PDA has been in the hotel.
Apps – There are several gay travel
apps that can help you find the right place to stay, eat or drink
while traveling. One is Pink Dollar - Inspired by his own experience
of discrimination in Hong Kong, Paul Ramscar created a mobile app
that depends on crowd-sourcing for reviews of businesses around the
Local Wisdom – Sometimes it’s best
to ask a local as they’ll be able to tell you about the best
neighborhoods to stay and will likely be familiar with the local
businesses and accommodations that are as gay-friendly as they claim
Seals of Approval – Check sites like
Purple Roofs or Tag Approved, which are gay travel organizations that
list approved hotels.
Really, being a good business owner
means being “friendly” to all customers regardless of race,
sexuality, age or religion. But because personal prejudices still
trump business intelligence for many, it’s still necessary to find
hotels that actively welcome LGBT travelers.
Before booking a room for your next
dream vacation, devote some time to researching your accommodation
options so that you can have the best possible time.
[Editor's Note: Jay Deratany is an
attorney, movie producer, human rights activist and boutique hotel
owner. He’s a frequent contributor to online publications and
writes about topics ranging from adoption laws to travel tips. The
Kirby, his new Saugatuck
hotel and wine bar, is all about modern luxury meets old world
here to take a look and connect with Jay on Google+
Copyright 2014 Jay Deratany