State-sponsored homophobia and transphobia could be costing 12 English speaking Caribbean countries as much as $689 million in lost tourism every year from LGBTQ+ travellers who would rather spend their pink dollars in more welcoming destinations according to a new report from Virgin Atlantic and consultancy Open for Business.
Nine out of the 12 countries highlighted in the report still criminalize same-sex intimacy, while not one country included in the report allows trans people to change their gender or sex on documents like passports or driving licences.
The authors found that LGBTQ+ people in the Caribbean face real challenges on a daily basis just because of their sexuality and state-sponsored homophobia is prevalent across the region. The social stigma surrounding LGBTQ+ people remains significant.
“The Caribbean is – understandably - one of the biggest leisure destinations we fly to and one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. But, sadly it is also one of the least inclusive,” explains Juha Jarvinen, Virgin Atlantic’s chief customer officer.
Survey data of potential LGBTQ+ travellers found that the key reason for not wanting to visit the Caribbean was perceived issues of homophobia. But as many as 60 per cent of those polled would reconsider if same-sex unions were allowed.
Jarvinen says countries like Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have been hard hit by the lack of tourism caused by the pandemic. It makes sense, then, to appeal to as wide a demographic of travellers as possible in order to support the regions economic recovery – including LGBTQ+ travellers and allies.
“At Virgin Atlantic, we want every single person who travels with us to feel they can be themselves on holiday and we will continue to use the power of our brand to push for change around the world,” Jarvinen continues.
Without change, however, anti-LGBTQ+ laws could be costing the region as much as $689 million every year in lost tourism. The total cost could be much, much higher – between $1.5 and $4.2 billion per year.
Private businesses and even the courts are leading progressive change in some of these countries but governments must send a clearer message that LGBTQ+ travellers are welcome according to the report’s authors.
But through the legacy of colonialism in the region, legal discrimination against LGBTQ+ people remains in place throughout the English-speaking Caribbean.
Virgin Atlantic is certainly proving to be an ally by potentially antagonising governments over long-held laws and social norms but the airline can obviously see a win-win-win scenario by advocating on behalf of LGBTQ+ travellers.
The question is whether these countries can afford not to change for the better?
The full list of countries highlighted in the report are: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.