We’re officially halfway through Pride month! Last week, a group of our advisors traveled to Los Angeles for PROUD Experiences, a three-day conference centered around how companies and destinations can do their part to not just make LGBTQ+ travelers feel safe, but also accepted and celebrated.
Why is this important? Aside from the obvious part where we should all love and respect our fellow people and embrace our differences, there are a lot of other reasons why LGBTQ+ tourism is something to be taken seriously. During the opening gathering at PROUD Experiences, they shared a quote from Roger Dow, former President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association:
“Gays lead, and the rest follow. They’re adventurous and like new experiences. They have a penchant for travel far greater than their heterosexual counterparts. They travel more, and spend more when they travel.”
One of the surprising things about this conference was the presence of several tourist boards from cities and countries all over the world. So many places come together as a community to embrace LGBTQ+ tourists and locals, including some that either have been or have been part of an area that historically wasn’t safe for them to visit.
Here are eight destinations that may not immediately come to mind for LGBTQ+ travelers, but are known for their inclusive and welcoming communities:
1. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is considered one of the top LGBTQ+ destinations in South America. The city has a reputation for being open-minded and accepting of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The city has a varied LGBTQ+ scene to discover, offering vibrant nightlife, rich culture, and a welcoming atmosphere. Buenos Aires also has a rich tango scene that includes queer milongas (tango halls) where people of all genders can dance together.
2. Bogotá, Colombia
Colombia overall has made significant strides in LGBTQ+ rights, and Bogotá is one of the most culturally diverse cities in all South America. Many LGBTQ+ people in Colombia live in this city, which has helped grow visibility for the community. Bogotá has a wide gastronomic and cultural vibe to offer and has a vibrant LGBT nightlife that makes everyone feel welcome. It is also home to the largest gay bar in Latin America.
3. Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa is not often associated with LGBTQ+ travel, but Cape Town stands out as a welcoming destination. The city has a progressive stance on LGBTQ+ rights and offers queer-friendly spaces, bars, clubs, and a vibrant community. The city hosts an annual Pride Festival that usually takes place in late February/early March and spans ten days, attracting both locals and international visitors.
4. Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv has a vibrant LGBTQ+ scene, making it one of the most gay-friendly cities in the Middle East. They welcome queer tourists with open arms, and also offer a safe refuge for those from surrounding countries in the region that are less accepting of the community. The city is home to a plethora of LGBTQ+ bars, gyms, beaches and hotels, as well as the largest Pride parade in the Middle East and Asia
5. Tokyo, Japan
While Japan has traditionally been conservative regarding gay rights, Tokyo has emerged as a relatively safe and inclusive city for LGBTQ+ travelers. The city is home to a vibrant and diverse queer community with many unique parties and events that happen all year round. Tokyo’s Shinjuku district has emerged as a popular destination with progressive and positive changes for queer couples, making it an increasingly hot destination for LGBTQ+ travelers.
6. Sitges, Spain
Sitges is a charming coastal town near Barcelona, known for being loud and proud about the diversity of ethnicity, religion, and especially sexual orientations of not only locals but visitors. It hosts one of Europe's largest Pride events, attracting a diverse international crowd. Sitges offers LGBTQ+-friendly bars, clubs, and even specific gay beaches!
7. Reykjavik, Iceland
The National Queer Association of Iceland works diligently to ensure equal rights for all queer people in their country and to further serve the community, and its capital city of Reykjavik is a central hub of LGBTQ+ life. This dynamic and quirky city has many bars, clubs, and other venues that are open to people of any persuasion, as well as offering explicitly gay bars. The Reykjavik Pride festival is a week-long event held every year in August, and includes a parade, concerts, and other events.
8. Austin, Texas
While Texas overall doesn’t have the best reputation for accepting the queer community, Austin is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the country. While many places may have only one or two areas known as “gay districts,” Austin’s LGBTQ+ community is integrated throughout this inclusive town, meaning that tourists can feel comfortable experiencing everything that this city has to offer. Additionally, there are many gay-owned businesses and nightclubs in Austin, and this city hosts many events throughout the year that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.