Gay Travel: 22 Companies We’re Proud Of
Passersby at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C., can’t help notice an 83-foot-tall banner featuring NBA player Jason Collins under the hashtag #LoveTravels. “Every time I travel, whether for my personal life or with the NBA, I want to feel welcome,” says the Brooklyn Nets center, who came out as gay in 2013.
Marriott International’s latest outreach campaign features several prominent LGBT advocates. And it’s among a growing number of U.S.-based travel companies to voice support for the gay rights movement—benefiting not only travelers, but also those working behind the front desk.
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“The travel industry has been an early pioneer of LGBT inclusion,” says Deena Fidas, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Workplace Equality Program. It releases an annual index for corporate policies relating to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees.
This year’s Corporate Equality Index featured multiple travel brands with perfect scores of 100. Kimpton, for example, requires each of its hotels to be approved by Travel Alternatives Group (TAG) and member properties of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA). One of the benefits is staff sensitivity training to ensure all guests feel at ease.
“These companies know that their audiences want to see reflections of themselves before booking or buying a ticket,” says Fidas. “They want to feel welcomed by the company."
Transportation companies are increasingly LGBT friendly as well. American, Delta, and Southwest all spoke out against the anti-gay legislation pending in Arizona earlier this year, protesting that their customers and employees deserved better. And Zipcar is donating $1 per hour driven in a special fleet of “Pride Zipcars” to local LGBT charities in honor of Pride month.
John Clifford, a Travel + Leisure A-List agent from International Travel Management, believes that socially conscious travelers should think about where their tourism money goes. He encourages “buycotts,” in which vacationers actively “support those who support you.” The LGBT community spends $200 billion while traveling annually, so their choices make a powerful statement.
By recognizing and advocating for employee diversity, and by welcoming LGBT guests with open arms, these companies are responsible for making travel in America more inclusive.
The country’s major rail service has a dedicated Ride with Pride site for LGBT travel, and, in June 2014, it encourages travelers to ride to Pride, highlighting train routes to key U.S. celebrations. A member of IGLTA, Amtrak sponsors Pride events in Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Vegas-appropriate taglines—Be yourself, it’s a good bet and We always root for two of a kind—carry weight at Caesars. A partner with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and IGLTA, it has scored a perfect 100 on the Corporate Equality Index six years in a row. The resort company has a microsite for LGBT travelers, with links to themed events and wedding planning.
American has a history of acceptance: it was the first airline to include sexual orientation (1993) and gender identity (2000) in its nondiscrimination policies for employees. This year, it loudly criticized anti-gay legislation in Arizona. No surprise then that it has scored a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s index since the ranking’s inception in 2002.
Commune Hotels & Resorts
Commune Hotels is no stranger to the gay rights movement. Its Joie de Vivre brand (founded in the 1980s) is a longtime sponsor of San Francisco's Pride celebration, and each property is TAG-approved. On the East Coast, the company's Thompson Hotels property Gild Hall in New York, is also TAG-approved, and offers promotional packages for NYC's Pride festival each June.
When drivers rent one of the company’s fleet of Pride Zipcars—specially branded Ford Escapes—during the month of June 2014, Zipcar will donate $1 for every hour to a local LGBT charity. The company also sponsors several high-profile Pride celebrations.
Delta joined several other airlines in criticizing Arizona’s pending anti-gay legislation in February, stating that such a law would “violate Delta’s core values of mutual respect and dignity.” Its website includes a rundown of lesbian and gay travel ideas, from Amsterdam to Johannesburg to Zurich, complete with helpful links.
Orbitz produces its own guides to top LGBT-friendly destinations, including hotels, all-inclusive resorts, and event calendars, all available for direct booking through the site. It also sponsors various Pride events around the country.
Expedia made headlines in 2012 for a commercial in which a father travels to his lesbian daughter’s wedding. On its LGBT travel site, users can read up on gay-friendly destinations and hotels before booking reservations directly.
New Hyatt ads stating "We're proud to be with you" feature a lesbian couple and wish passersby a Happy Pride on the drive to O'Hare International Airport. The Chicago-based company is a Gold Partner of the IGLTA and has a dedicated Facebook page for its HyPride program, which promotes the brand's LGBT initiatives. In 2014, Hyatt earned top marks in the Human Rights Campaign's index for the 10th consecutive year.
IHG, whose brands include InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn, protested anti-gay bills in both Arizona and Georgia earlier this year, and the company joined the Human Rights Campaign’s effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Headquartered in Atlanta, it has sponsored the city’s Pride festival since 2011.
In October 2013, JetBlue became the first airline to allow same-sex couples to collectively earn and spend their loyalty points for free. It also sponsors the Pride events in Long Beach, CA, and supports nonprofits such as the Trevor Project, National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, and the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.
Kimpton just signed on as the first national hotel sponsor of the Trevor Project, a 24-hour hotline for at-risk LGBT teens. Impressively, each of the brand’s 61 properties is a member of IGLTA and is TAG-approved. With that approval comes yearly staff training sessions on how to make the hotels even more gay-friendly for guests.
Each of the Virgin brands is notably LGBT-friendly, thanks largely to CEO Richard Branson. Never one to hide his opinions, Branson is a longtime vocal ally to the gay community worldwide. Stateside, Virgin America is an official partner of San Francisco Pride.
Marriott came out strong against anti-gay legislation in Arizona earlier this year, and the company’s Residence Inn brand hosted a Twitter chat on gay travel back in 2013. This month, Marriott’s #LoveTravels campaign got a major celebrity boost from prominent LGBT figures, including Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins, with larger-than-life photographs by renowned advocate Braden Summers.
National Park Service
The National Park Service recently launched an initiative to identify important sites in LGBT history. The study will help Americans “understand, commemorate, and share these key chapters in our nation’s complex and diverse history,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced. On the short list: New York City’s Stonewall Inn, often seen as the birthplace of the gay rights movement.
Alaska Airlines has a dedicated LGBT Travel section on its website, with an events calendar and destination guides to gay-friendly destinations like Palm Springs, CA. Discount codes to Pride parties don’t hurt either.
Hilton recently revamped its “Stay Hilton. Go Out” website, with a useful calendar and videos from prominent LGBT voices including Broadway star Andrew Rannells and Mad Men’s Bryan Batt. A Platinum Partner of the IGLTA, it serves as the official hotel partner for high-profile events like Washington, D.C.’s Capital Pride and the GLAAD Media Awards.
Preferred Pride Collection
The Preferred Pride collection from Preferred Hotel Group includes more than 100 luxury properties around the world—from Grandhotel Pupp in the Czech Republic to the Fleming Hotel in Hong Kong—that have proven their commitment to LGBT equality. IGLTA members or TAG-approved, these hotels go the extra mile to ensure that guests of any orientation feel at ease. That means details such as personalized "Mr. and Mr." welcome notes for a gay couple or two pairs of women’s slippers and bathrobes for a lesbian couple.
Outspoken against Arizona’s controversial anti-gay legislation this year, Southwest serves as the official airline of a host of LGBT organizations, including GLAAD.
Starwood’s brands are frequent supporters of Pride events and LGBT organizations around the country. Multiple properties, including the St. Regis Bali Resort, in Indonesia, the Westin Palace Madrid, and Le Méridien in Nice, France, are IGLTA members. Also of note: its W Hotels were the first in New York to offer same-sex marriage packages.
Car-hailing service Uber sponsors multiple Pride events in cities including Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
One of only two airlines to earn a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign’s index, United is an IGLTA Gold Partner and the exclusive airline partner of the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland this August.