African countries show increasing interest in attracting LGBTQ+ visitors: Travel Weekly

Doreen Reinstein

The LGBTQ+ travel market has been instrumental in driving the recovery of global tourism after the pandemic. The purchasing power of this market, especially in the travel industry, reached over $211 billion before the pandemic with no signs of abating since then. So it’s no surprise that Africa wants a slice of the LGBTQ+ pie.

LGBTQ+ travel has received a lot of attention at the recent South African travel trade fairs. At Africa’s Travel Indaba, held in Durban in May, South African Tourism and the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA) hosted a get-together for the LGBTQ+ tourism family in the travel industry.

At the event, Justin Barnett, Head of Marketing and Communications for North America at the South African Tourism Authority, explained that South Africa and North America have shown the most investment in appreciation of the LGBTQ+ community. This was reflected in the deals struck at the fair, according to Martina Barth, IGLTA Membership Director South Africa. She noted that enthusiasm for South Africa by LGBTQ+ buyers and media has been very encouraging.

Meanwhile at WTM Africa, the LGBTQ+ market got a lot of attention with a dedicated side event, Equal Africa, hosted specifically for this market. “With Equal Africa, we wanted to open our delegates’ minds to the realities of LGBTQ+ tourism through our in-depth programme, exploring everything from attracting LGBTQ+ clients to safety and security concerns,” said Martin Heller, Director of Creative and Content. , Tourism and Creative Industries at RX Africa, which organizes WTM Africa and Equal Africa. “The conference was all about engaging in dialogue that further enhanced the community’s continued vision, value, and advocacy.”

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According to Heller, there are still challenges in Africa when it comes to LGBTQ+ travel, but the landscape is developing, and more countries are decriminalizing same-sex relationships; The most recent was Botswana, which did so in June 2019. Increasingly, African destinations are proudly promoting LGBT travelers whether they are seasoned or first-time visitors. “Destinations that welcome LGBT tourism convey a strong image of tolerance and respect,” he said.

LoAnn Halden, Vice President of Communications for IGLTA, agreed, and said that while South Africa and especially Cape Town have been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ travel on the continent, more destinations are now entering the conversation (and even more destinations within South Africa).

Increased focus by Botswana and Namibia

According to Halden, Botswana and Namibia are increasingly focusing on the LGBTQ+ market. She said decriminalizing homosexuality is a game changer in any country, which Botswana did in 2019 (still against the law in Namibia). “This doesn’t mean that societal opinion changes overnight, but it does give companies more breathing room to have conversations about LGBTQ+ travel,” she said, adding that it doesn’t necessarily change their marketing or offering, but rather that they are asking more questions, trying to gain knowledge and insight.

As Pride Month approaches in June, more countries, institutions, and tourism authorities are likely to consider jumping on the LGBTQ+ bandwagon. This is a risky approach, according to speakers at Equal Africa who discussed the “pink wash” issue.

Pink wash (or rainbow wash) occurs when a company publicly tries to show its support for the LGBTQ+ community while doing nothing private to support and reassure these travelers. “It is the equivalent of putting a flag of pride on company materials without fully understanding the needs and desires of this market segment,” said Michael Gladwin, Managing Director of Afrigay Travel. “For us, this is a tactic, not a strategy, and it can be considered offensive.”

“If marketing campaigns are materially inconsistent with your company’s values ​​or are seen as an insincere once-a-year signal, they may be considered by LGBTQ+ consumers as hypocritical pandering,” added Tami Kutlulu, founder of the Feather Awards, which was organized. in South Africa and appreciating those who support, inspire and empower the LGBT community.

For Halden, the pink wash out is often short-lived. She said IGLTA is always approached at trade shows by a few companies that have heard that LGBTQ+ travel is profitable and so they want to jump into the market. “These companies are being phased out quickly, because they require a long-term commitment, education and a genuine desire to support the community,” she said.

Tips for travel agents

Travel agents who want to start organizing more travel to Africa for the LGBTQ+ travel market need to take real interest in this market. The first step, Halden said, is to talk to suppliers about their opinions about LGBTQ+ travel. Do they host other LGBTQ+ travelers/groups? Do they have references from other LGBTQ+ travelers?

“You don’t want your clients to be in a test case, you want to send them to places that treat their guests with respect and keep them safe. IGLTA has a number of tour operators that take groups to Africa; depending on the comfort level of the client, group travel can be a good alternative – Safety in numbers.

Of course, Haldane concluded, “Do your homework, and understand what the laws are for LGBT people, country by country.”

RX Africa’s Heller agreed that while perceptions of LGBTQ+ travelers in Africa change, travel advisors should always highlight the laws. He said, “It is worth noting that regardless of your sexual orientation, African culture is generally conservative (especially in Muslim countries). As long as you are willing to avoid showing affection in public, there is no reason why LGBTQ+ travelers should not travel safely.”

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