LGBT Americans: Strong travel needs and definite travel plans despite COVID-19

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LGBT Americans report strong travel needs and definite plans despite COVID-19
LGBT Americans report strong travel needs and definite plans despite COVID-19
Written by Harry S. Johnson

Not surprising to observe, most American adults surveyed this month by The Harris Poll, express reservations and go-slow attitudes towards reviving their leisure and business travel habits. Acknowledging serious public health concerns as well as new limits promoting safe travel and accommodations practices, even the most frequent travelers cite caution in making their next plans in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

In many ways, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults appear to mirror their non-LGBT counterparts, yet depart in key ways including their past frequency of travel. LGBT adults, for example, reported taking an average of 3.6 leisure trips in the past year (compared to 2.3 leisure trips for non-LGBT adults) as well as 2.1 business trips, on average, compared to 1.2 trips by non-LGBT adults.
Other key differences also surfaced in this study:

  • LGBT adults are twice as likely to plan travel over Memorial Day weekend vs. non-LGBT adults (8% vs. 4%).
  • Asked when they anticipate their next leisure trip, 28% of LGBT adults responded it would take place in the next four months (May-August) when contrasted with 21% of non-LGBT adults.  Just over half (51%) of LGBT adults vs. 46% of non-LGBT adults expect to travel for vacation in 2020.
  • 46% of LGBT adults (when compared with 37% of non-LGBT counterparts) expect the pandemic situation will be resolved before this year’s summer travel season.

These are some of the results of an online survey conducted by The Harris Poll among 2,508 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18+ between May 6 and 8, 2020. 284 adult respondents self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) including an oversample.

“Americans so often feel travel is their lifeblood,” said Erica Parker, Managing Director of The Harris Poll. “Our newest benchmark reveals how conflicted, uncertain or confused many of us feel balancing our need to travel with health risks and cautions. It’s especially enlightening to contrast similarities and differences among us, including LGBT travelers.”

Whether traveling or not in the near-term, LGBT respondents reported feeling more comfortable than others making these specific travel choices today:

  • Traveling to a US destination: 64% LGBT vs. 58% non-LGBT adults.
  • Staying in a hotel: 59% LGBT vs. 50% non-LGBT adults.
  • Staying at an Airbnb: 43% LGBT vs. 35% non-LGBT adults.
  • Flying commercial aircraft: 43% LGBT vs. 35% non-LGBT adults.
  • Traveling to Europe: 35% LGBT vs. 28% non-LGBT adults.
  • Attending a crowded event, concert, theme park or beach: 33% LGBT vs. 25% non-LGBT.
  • Taking a cruise: 31% LGBT vs. 23% non-LGBT.

Finally, when asked what conditions or arguments will have the greatest impact on their personal decisions favoring leisure travel in 2020, LGBT travelers disproportionately favored several:

  • Significantly reduced public health risks: 60% LGBT vs. 54% non-LGBT.
  • Strong need for travel/change of scenery: 54% LGBT vs. 43% non-LGBT.
  • Compelling travel bargains and promotions: 47% LGBT vs. 36% non-LGBT.
  • Personal desire to support a destination and local economy: 48% LGBT vs. 33% non-LGBT.

“Past research tells us travel remains a high priority for LGBT consumers – even when overcoming setbacks,” said Bob Witeck, President of Witeck Communications, an LGBT market expert. “We witnessed this in 2001 following 9/11, as well as post-recession in 2009, when LGBT adults showed strong personal appetite to travel once again. As conditions permit, and the economy reopens, we anticipate LGBT travelers again will be found towards the front of many lines at airports, hotels and desirable destinations.”

“All of us working in LGBTQ+ tourism have witnessed the resilience and loyalty of our travel community, yet having data to back this up is essential to ensure that LGBTQ+ travelers are valued as the tourism industry at large begins its recovery,” said John Tanzella, President/CEO of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. “We are pleased to see that The Harris Poll places LGBTQ+ travelers at the forefront and that these findings among the U.S. LGBT community align with our recent survey of LGBTQ+ travel sentiment around the world.”


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