People thought that Joel Cabrera and I were crazy for starting our luxury gay vacation company, Zoom Vacations, immediately after 911.
“No one is traveling,” they said. “It will be years.” Months later we offered our first tour to Rio de Janeiro with almost 70 guests.
Then, the recession hit hard, and the travel industry reeled. Several mainstream (straight) tour companies and travel agencies that we knew of went under. However, we just kept focusing on providing great tours, and we honestly had one of our best years ever.
Since then, there have been other challenges, the kind of things that received a lot of airtime within the main stream travel industry, such as Ebola, SARS, and Zica. Our mainstream partners saw a definite decrease in the amount of people wanting vacations. However, we barely noticed a ripple.
During this pandemic, I have occasionally posed questions about traveling on my social media pages, and there has been a marked difference in the reactions of my straight friends versus my friends in the LGBTQ+ community. While there are exceptions to everything, my gay friends have been overwhelmingly more encouraged and hopeful about taking a vacation soon, even before there is a vaccine.
Zoom Vacations just sent out a survey asking our travelers for their feedback about traveling post-Covid-19, and their responses echoed what I had seen from my social media posts. Gay people are excited to travel again, and especially internationally. This is in direct contrast to what I’m hearing from my friends in the mainstream travel sector, who say that their travelers are more interested in domestic travel.
So why is this?
While there are no studies that I know of to indicate why this may be happening, I do have my own observations and theories. My main theory is as follows:
For many gay people, especially those 40 and older, coming out was a very difficult and terrifying thing to do. I remember when I came out about 25 years ago– it felt like I was announcing to the world that I was indeed this thing that was hated and feared and despised by many people. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, and I have done some shit. I think for a lot of us, after coming out, we may not be as easily daunted by other challenges and hurdles life may throw at us.
Furthermore, the only way that I could come out, and feel sane and healthy about it, was to celebrate the fact that I was different from other people, rather than hiding from it. The more I celebrate my difference and uniqueness, the more I celebrate and appreciate it in other people as well. Therefore, this inspires me even more to travel to different places of the world, and the more different from me the better. Many of my travelers echo this same feeling. Seeing new and different cultures becomes part of our DNA, and forms an essential part of what makes us feel grounded, healthy, and even celebratory about who we are.
For a lot of us, traveling and seeing different parts of the world isn’t just something that is fun to do, but more integral to who we are and what we need to function as healthy people.
So, my main theory is two-fold: 1. coming out as gay makes many of life’s other challenges seem like child’s play, and 2. our celebration of being different makes traveling more of a need than a want.
Another theory that may be more obvious is that most gay people do not have children, and this makes many aspects of vacationing less complicated. Spur-of-the-moment changes are easier to accommodate, and we only need be concerned about our own wellbeing, which makes things less stressful as well. Something else I have noticed is that without children, we have a tendency to invest more time and money into travel. Without children, travel may often be, well, easier.
Time will tell, but if history is any indication, I predict that the LGBTQ+ community will be leading the charge to travel. And not only that, we will be well-equipped for the safest experience possible. We’ll have antibacterial hand gel in droves, sanitary wipes, and stylish outfit-matching face masks. We’ll travel, but we’re going to do it right.