LGBTQ+ people often face additional challenges when traveling. The nature of these challenges can vary depending on where guests are traveling, who they are traveling with, how they identify with themselves, and how they present themselves. But for many, it's still an ongoing problem.
Our industry needs to not only be aware of these challenges and anxieties facing the LGBTQ+ community, but also to act proactively to help these travelers — and indeed all travelers — feel safe, comfortable and welcome.
Why is inclusivity in the workplace important?
How we think about guest inclusion often starts with how we think about employee inclusion.
Before I joined AccorHotels, I worked as a drag queen in the accommodation industry in Spain for 6 months. It was a great time, but when I got back to Australia I was worried that I would have to cut this part of my life away to pursue a 'serious career'. Until I was lucky enough to join Accor.
Not only did Accor accept this side of me, they thought it was worth promoting. It's no longer something I need to hide, so I can focus on my work. They embraced my "drag" side, and I even did field trips and hosted events for clients in drag.
From the beginning, they have been open and encouraged me to be myself in the workplace – to be my authentic self.
Leading by Example: Starting at the Leadership Level
Our CEO, Sarah Derry, is passionate about inclusion and diversity of all kinds, and I sit on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee myself. Engagement from senior leadership helps drive initiatives that really make a difference, such as our policy of providing employees with paid and unpaid time off to help them affirm their gender.
This leadership also helps us engage with meaningful events, such as WorldPride 2023 in Sydney. It was an exciting 17 days of celebrations, during which more than 50,000 people marched across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. We designed a new logo and participated in many events across the city to really get involved and be part of this community.
This level of acceptance for our staff and the wider LGBTQ+ community also makes it easy for us to offer an equally inclusive experience to our guests.
Three Elements of a More Inclusive Experience for LGBTQ+ Guests
Broadly speaking, I think there are three key elements to creating an inclusive experience for guests.
Many people are hesitant to ask questions of people who are different from them, fearing it might come across as ignorant or even offensive. In fact, it is okay to ask questions of others if the intention is good.
For example, if you want to confirm a guest's bedding arrangement, it's perfectly fine to ask them directly: "You booked a room with a queen bed. Is that right?" This is a straightforward, factual question that can be asked of any guest.
This was much better than the experience of one of my colleagues. He was traveling with his male partner when he was asked critically by accommodation staff: "Are you sure?"
In addition to this communication with guests, internal communication should also make people feel comfortable and at ease. This means being able to ask managers how to handle uncertain situations. Training helps employees acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to conduct every interaction with the right awareness and attitude.
For example, we have set ourselves the goal of having all Accor properties in Australia and New Zealand certified under the Booking.com Travel Proud program .
Travel Proud is an apt addition to what we're doing now, it's a back-to-basics program that's very intuitive and easy to understand for non-native English speakers.
And because it's from a third party, it means it's easier for people to participate and ask questions. Anyone can participate in the Travel Proud program, and in my opinion, everyone should participate.
The second important aspect is clearly demonstrating support for the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s not just about flying rainbow flags everywhere, it’s about taking conscious steps to show your inclusivity, whether it’s the signage in your restroom or the language on your website. Simple things like directly stating that your property is LGBTQ+ friendly can go a long way toward making guests feel at ease.
The Travel Proud program helps us with this, because travelers using Booking.com will see that all of our properties have a Travel Proud badge and know they're in for a truly welcoming experience.
I'm currently working on updating our reservation system to be more inclusive of pronouns and titles. Since this is a global reservation system covering properties and guests all over the world, improving it is naturally complex. But perfecting these details can signal to guests from the start that we want to make them comfortable and welcome them to be their true, whole selves.
It’s not possible to do everything 100% right, but it will mean a lot to guests if they can see that you’ve tried and worked hard to get it right.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to show professionalism.
In the lodging industry, it's our job to put our guests first. This means being able to focus on bringing the best experience to our guests no matter what our own thoughts or opinions may be.
Of course, this is how we treat all of our guests, and that's what's really key - true inclusivity is bringing the same level of warmth, care and acceptance to everyone in every interaction.
- We need to make LGBTQ+ travelers – indeed all travelers – feel safe, comfortable and welcome
- Inclusion starts at the leadership level and is a core value of AccorHotels, allowing people to be their authentic selves at work
- Communication is critical to creating a more inclusive experience. Training helps equip employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out every interaction with the right awareness and attitude
- Visibility matters, too – letting people see your efforts can be just as important as doing it right
- Finally, displaying professionalism in all interactions, including with LGBTQ+ guests, helps people feel included on the road