There’s a lack of information and education – and thus, properly targeted marketing – in the tourism industry on the LGBTQ+ community.

South Africa remains one of few African countries that are LGBTQ+ friendly – in fact it’s only one of 22 countries on the continent where being gay is legal –  as shown in the 2018 infographic by Amnesty International UK.

The President and CEO of the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA), John Tanzella, told Tourism Update that LGBTQ+ travellers don’t automatically assume businesses are welcoming.

“We need to see more South African tourism companies willing to publicly talk about welcoming LGBTQ+ travellers and being more inclusive in their messaging. LGBTQ+ travellers are quite loyal to the companies that are friendly to the community,” said Tanzella. “We’d certainly love to see a greater presence from South African businesses in IGLTA.”

A recent report by San Francisco-based analysts, Community Marketing and Insights – the 24th Annual LGBTQ+ Tourism and Hospitality Study – revealed that when it came to selecting a travel destination, 80% of respondents ranked LGBTQ+ friendly establishments either as ‘very important’ (39%) or ‘important’ (41%).

Marketing Director of The Travel & Event Company, Michael Gladwin, believes it is important for businesses have a global benchmark standard for dealing with LGBTQ+ travellers. “It’s not just about acceptance. It’s about a depth of understanding,” said Gladwin.

“I’m currently working with the IGLTA on creating an online training tool. This tool is to give these in the industry a different perspective of the LGBTQ+ for the tourism supplier organisation to be truly LGBTQ+ friendly.”

There is no official grading process in the South African tourism industry to establish if a businesses is LGBTQ+ friendly or not. There are a few sites like Gay Journey where travellers can find LGBTQ+ friendly tourism businesses in South Africa by province.

Tanzella told Tourism Update that, although South Africa had the most progressive laws for LGBTQ+ on the African continent, and had organisations such South African Tourism including the community within their outreach efforts, more representation in the industry was needed.

“The community can always use more representation – and not only in the form of LGBTQ+ organisations, but also from allies willing to act on our behalf,” said Tanzella. “IGLTA is proud to partner with WTM Africa this year on EQUAL Africa to offer a one-day educational programme in Cape Town, and it’s a great opportunity for South African tourism businesses to learn more about the market and how they can better serve LGBTQ+ travellers.”

Could tourism businesses in SA be losing out?

Tourism Update recently asked readers in a poll how important they thought it was to be marketed as accommodating to LGBTQ+ consumers.

Of voters, 36% thought it was highly important, while 32% thought it wasn’t important at all. Could tourism businesses in South Africa be losing out on spend from LGBTQ+ by not marketing themselves well enough as LGBTQ+ friendly?