Why Hotels are Where LGBTQ Travelers Should be Seen

LGBTQ travelers

Hotels are a microcosm of acceptance and equality. At least the best ones are when they choose to be.

By Marc Graser
Photos by Harry Davis

I remember the first time I was asked if I needed a second bed or separate bedroom while checking into a hotel in Chicago. I was with my husband, and instantly made to feel wrong because I was questioned if I had made a mistake while booking my stay. Even though we were together, the associate wanted to fix the error, and as a result, our existence as a married couple. 

The moment stood out to me then and still does now because hotels typically represent a microcosm of people who are welcomed—always, no matter where or who they are.

When successful, these are safe, stylish, even trend-setting spaces that make anyone feel seen, equal and valued without question or effort. 

The LGBTQ traveler is more cautious than ever in choosing where to stay. We live in a world of increasing contradictions and instability, so we pay attention to what businesses do, and how they try to connect with their customer—or when they make an effort not to. 

Read Also: Why It’s Time to Pay More Attention to the LGBTQ Traveler

While browsing the Instagram feeds of ten high-profile hotels in Chicago, operating under the Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental, Peninsula, Thompson, Peninsula, Waldorf Astoria, St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton banners, not a single one had a post that courted members of the LGBTQ community throughout June, Pride Month.

Dogs, while cute, got more exposure. There was a post about Taylor Swift, though. Sorry, not close enough. 

It was a different story on the social media feeds for Chicago’s two W hotels, and ones from the city’s Virgin Hotel; The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel; and The LaSalle, a handsome new member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. There were multiple posts with people, not just rainbow flags. Effort was made. 

Representation matters, and the hotels that acknowledge their customers get rewarded for it. 

The Choice Was Made

In all of those cases, a decision was made to choose not to acknowledge an entire community of people who are celebrated during the same month each year.

And it’s a growing group of individuals with clout worth paying attention to and connecting with.

In fact, the LGBTQ community spends more than $200 billion on travel each year. We take vacations, we celebrate special occasions, we need to unwind, relax and seek out every opportunity to live well like anyone else. We’re here, we travel, get used to it.

I chose Chicago but I’m sure a social media search would have ended up with similar results on hotel channels in other cities.

I’m not saying every hotel brand needs to be Axel Hotels, an LGBTQ-first brand that playfully claims to be hetero friendly, or Palm Springs’ Hacienda at Warm Sands, an elevated desert retreat that caters primarily to gay men.

But Pharrell Williams’ The Goodtime Hotel, in Miami, or the Kaimana Beach Hotel, in Waikiki (see hero image above), regularly feature LGBTQ travelers enjoying themselves during their stays without overdoing the message-heavy hashtags. 

Representation matters, and the hotels that acknowledge their customers get rewarded for it. 

I see and want to spend my time in their cool bars, trendy restaurants, relaxing spas and upgrade to a suite. I appreciate their design choices, and make plans to experience what the brand is doing in other destinations. I see them because they see me and share my experiences with my friends, family and allies. 

We’re here, we travel, get used to it.

Communication is Key

If there’s a reason I’ve gravitated to brands like Autograph, Virgin and W over the years, I only need to point to how they communicate with me.

In short, they want my business. They would never ask if I need a second bed or another room. They aspire to serve everyone, whenever, wherever, to borrow a little from W’s favorite phrasing. I’m not a gay traveler to them. I’m me in the most authentic and genuine way.

When everything clicks—amazing customer service, striking design, exceptional culinary offerings, first-rate amenities—a hotel becomes as close to an individual as you can become. It gains a personality, an attitude, a vibe people yearn to be around and spend more time with. 

A hotel may advertise as being welcoming to LGBTQ travelers, but if the reviews, reputation and their marketing channels don’t reflect that, it won’t align with my expectations and preferences, once I’m a guest.

During Pride, the right hotel doesn’t shy away from saying love is love, no matter the gender.

The perfect hotel doesn’t need to be prompted to show it cares about the LGBTQ community year round. Create an inclusive environment. Don’t ignore people like me or members of my community.

Make an effort. It doesn’t take much if you care. 

It all comes down to choice. Yours and, ultimately, mine. His. Hers. Theirs. Ours.

Marc Graser is the editor-in-chief of Lei, for LGBTQ travelers, and the vp of brand storytelling at NMG Network.