About 94% of international LGBTQ+ business travellers experienced discrimination, and 82% changed hotels due to safety concerns, a 2023 survey by SAP Concur has revealed.

Although the travel industry is increasingly addressing inclusivity, research shows that business travel is lagging.

“The lack of inclusivity in business travel is troubling. It creates uneven playing fields for LGBTQ+ employees, limiting their career opportunities if they feel unsafe travelling. This hurts both individuals and organisations. Plus, it undermines a company’s diversity efforts and reputation,” says Bonnie Smith, GM of Corporate Traveller.

Smith adds that addressing the safety of LGBTQ+ business travellers can be difficult due to the rapid changes to LGBTQ+ rights and safety concerns worldwide.

According to the Healix Global Security Operations Centre’s 2024 LGBTQ+ Travel Security report, Africa is the most risky continent to travel to for LGBTQ+ travellers, basing this on rights, laws, freedoms and public perspectives. Thirty-one countries in Africa have criminalised homosexuality, and many more display anti-queer sentiments. Other dangerous regions for queer travellers include the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, North Asia and East Asia.

Even in countries that are considered LGBTQ+ friendly, travellers can still face challenges, as 90% of business travellers reported that they still hid their sexual orientation during their trips.

However, this strategy does not always guarantee their safety.

Smith recommends training staff and using TMCs that will understand the unique risks and cultural sensitivities to accommodate and assist employees who do not conceal their sexuality. TMCs can do this by communicating with local tour operators and DMCs who are aware of establishments and accommodations that are queer-friendly or by consulting online guides for options such as IGLTA. IGLTA offers lists of tour operators and accommodations that are tolerant of LGBTQ+ travellers.

TMCs can also offer pre-trip assessments that examine local laws and customs, the degree of social and cultural acceptance as well as outlying practices. An example of an outlier is when homosexuality is not illegal in a country, but specific ideas of public indecency that correlate with queerness can result in arrest.

Smith emphasises the importance by corporates to train staff on how rights vary in different countries, and who to contact in medical emergencies and for legal support if faced with assault, detention, imprisonment, or deportation.

Furthermore, by creating inclusive policies that adapt to destination-specific laws, sociopolitical changes, safety considerations and language usage, diversity, equity and inclusivity policies are validated. Additionally, it safeguards employees’ mental and physical health, improving work ethic and retention.

“An inclusive travel culture can improve morale and make staff feel valued by their employer,” concludes Smith.

This article first appeared on Southern Africa’s Travel News.