The recent ITB Berlin travel trade conference featured several inclusive vacation opportunities for gay and lesbian couples with children, as well as several initiatives to celebrate travelers’ increasing diversity.
“Thanks to ITB Berlin, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender has developed in recent years from a niche into an internationally recognized product,” said Rika Jean-François, Corporate Social Responsibility officer at ITB Berlin.
The tourism convention’s LGBT Travel Pavilion was, according to ITB, the largest gathering to date of gay travel and tour operators. For media, buyers at the conference, and the general public (who were able to shop for upcoming vacations the last two days of the show), several destinations presented themselves in a new way, stressing diversity and inclusion. Here are four destinations with guaranteed family appeal for same sex couples with children.
Stockholm, Open City
“Stockholm is a very open city,” noted press representative Birgitta Palmér at the LGBT press conference, “so it’s not a question of having appeal – it’s great for same sex couples and for families of all kinds.”
Thanks to the “Frozen” effect, Scandinavia tops many families’ bucket list. Stockholm is popular for its Vasa Museum housing a Viking ship, its palaces, the Nobel Museum honoring Laureates, and the medieval Gamla Stan neighborhood. The Vasa and Stockholm City museums are also among those that offer special LGBT tours.
Palmér adds that it’s easy for adults to combine their own interests with children’s activities at each venue. However, LGBTQ clubs are adults-only and, since Swedes typically travel in multigenerational groups, there is not a lot of babysitting available.
For that reason, LGBTQ festivals present a lot of family entertainment, so that parents can bring kids to daytime parades and talks. Even businesses that put out rainbow flags during pride events welcome kids during the day. Chokladkoppen is a special lunch café with outdoor seating that kids love; Malarpaviljongen (summer only) and Urban Deli are others that are family-friendly by day and adult at night.
This year’s EuroPride, previously hosted by Stockholm in 1998 and 2008, will take place there July 27-August 5, 2018, then continue in the popular town of Gothenburg August 14.
Vienna, City of Music
Vienna, named “Destination of the Year” at the Australian LGBT awards, was out at ITB Berlin and looking forward to the legalization of gay marriage in Austria by early 2019.
I spoke with tourism officer Thomas Bachinger who said, “Vienna is perfect for [gay travelers with] children, because we’re not positioning Vienna as a party destination like Amsterdam our Barcelona.”
He stressed that Vienna Tourism promoted the arts, culture and history – experiences sought out by families and multigenerational groups. Many of Vienna’s best known museums and palaces offer guided family tours, and make period costumes available so that kids can dress up as they tour the galleries. Attractions like the Prater amusement park and St. Stephen’s Cathedral are a must, and the Vienna City Card provides discounted tickets to all visitors.
Several of Vienna’s four and five-star hotels have babysitting available for LGBTQ families who want to check out the LGBTQ scene. The Hotel Sacher, Bachinger said, famous for its chocolate Sachertorte, also has a supervised kids program. The top gay pride events in Vienna take place in May and June, and include the Rainbow Ball, Vienna Boylesque Festival and Vienna Fetish Spring.
EuroPride is scheduled for the Austrian capital June 1-16, 2019.
New York State and New York City
NYC staff at ITB Berlin were talking about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, being celebrated in June 2019 at WorldPride. While the city that gave birth to the LGBTQ movement will host the biggest parade, events will take place around the state.
Ross Levi, of Empire State Development, explained that NY State has actively been promoting to LGBTQ families though Gay Parent magazine. Adding that when families travel, “they are families first and LGBT second,” he said that the state’s emphasis was on promoting great family destinations, both outdoors and indoors. He mentioned communities such as Fire Island, Storm King and the Catskills as being especially welcoming, and noted that Rochester had one of its LGBTQ bars rated among the Top 50 Gay Bars in the country.
He added that Sullivan County, site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival, museums, and many Catskill mountain resorts that welcome families, has also done lots of marketing to the LGBTQ community.
Thailand, Open Kingdom
Exhibiting as a gay destination at ITB for the first time, Thailand’s Governor of the Tourism Authority, Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, announced that more than 35.3M tourists had visited Thailand in 2017, spending an estimated $58 billion. Because “Buddhism teaches us everyone is equal,” he said, TAT’s vision is to position Thailand as “open to every color and every type of traveler.”
While Bangkok is already known as the gay capital of Asia, the new TAT website at GoThaiBeFree.com gathers information about top LGBTQ welcoming hotels, destinations, events and more into one portal. Regional representatives said that Thailand resort properties promote both to families with kids, and to same sex couples, because they welcome everyone. Childcare and supervised kids programs are widely available.
The annual Songkran water festival, in mid April 2018, is a great time to visit because it’s celebrated at many LGBTQ venues in addition to nationwide.
Womens Issues and Gender Equality
Another way ITB Berlin tackled discrimination in the travel industry was a panel organized by GRT, Gender Responsible Tourism, based in Italy. Speakers talked about how to expand awareness of women’s contribution to each destination’s culture, crafts, hospitality and culinary sectors. More research on gender data and issues is being funded.
Following on the heels of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the year ahead is certain to bring more products developed for solo women travelers, more amenities, and more focus on empowering women across the industry – now often in subservient roles — to one day lead the tourism sector.
AirBnB for All
Last noted, but not least in its impact on tourism, were several announcements from Airbnb on its Airbnb for All initiative. According to Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, CEO Airbnb China, the company’s latest effort in diversity is to make Airbnb “available to everyone, everywhere.”
In addition to rewarding their most active, and most highly rated hosts as Super Hosts; the home sharing company will reward their Super Guest frequent users with perks like airport pickups, local experiences and more.
Families and travelers of all persuasions and affinities will be able to take advantage of new Airbnb Categories to more easily select whether a private room, entire home or other accommodation meets their needs and interests. Paris’ 65,000 listings, as an example, will be sortable by type, categories like family friendly, have balcony, near the zoo, fun backyard, owned by a musician, etc. allow users to customize the experience.
Airbnb Plus is the company’s listing of its most luxurious properties, each verified by a company representative for its quality, thoughtful design or unique amenity. And Beyond will make even more upscale properties available, said Blecharczyk , in keeping with what luxury lifestyle travelers – of any gender or sexual orientation – are demanding.
Luxury Travelers Have the Last Word
Of course, money still talks in the travel industry, and usually leads the way.
According to several luxury experts who spoke at ITB, however, material wealth and ostentatious living is out. Instead, luxury is more often being defined by seclusion and personalized service — certainly a trend that should allow diversity of gender, sexual orientation and race to flourish in any destination.
And a trend that the travel industry is welcoming with open arms.
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