Only five per cent of LGBT couples are comfortable showing affection on holiday and half fear judgement and mockery when abroad, according to a new survey.
The findings, released today by Virgin Holidays, show a stark contrast between the experiences of straight and LGBT couples. The company spoke to 1,000 LGBT couples and 1,000 straight couples.
They found that more than eight in 10 straight couples (84 per cent) were comfortable engaging in public displays of affection when away.
One in three LGBT couples said they had experienced discrimination when on holiday, including being stared at (58 per cent), laughed at (35 per cent) and verbally abused (29 per cent).
A frightening one in ten LGBT travellers reported that they have been threatened with physical violence on holiday. Two thirds felt uncomfortable undertaking everyday activities such as applying sunscreen to their partner’s back.
The survey showed the travel industry has work to do to beat discrimination. One third of LGBT travellers said they feared judgement from hotel staff and more than half have had their relationship status questioned, including being offered single hotel rooms and having their beds separated by housekeeping staff.
This has resulted in eight out of ten couples refusing to hold hands on holiday at all.
Virgin Holidays have produced a video in collaboration with ATTN, an “issues driven” media company, to rasie awareness about the issue. The film is titled “What if we treated straight couples the way gay couples are treated on holiday?” and contrasts the experiences of heterosexual couples with the discrimination faced by same sex couples.
Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said he found the results of the survey shocking. He said: “At Virgin Holidays, we believe everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has the right to be whoever they are, wherever they are.
“That’s why it is shocking that in today’s society some of us can’t even enjoy a simple holiday without fear of discrimination.”
Joe Thompson, Managing Director at Virgin Holidays, has committed to work with partners abroad to improve the situation. He said: “Holidays should be relaxing, fun and full of adventure. Unfortunately for LGBT people this still isn’t always the case.
“We want everyone to take on the world and that’s why we’re working to continue to raise awareness of the issues faced by LGBT travellers on holiday, and to work with our partners abroad, to give customers the best experience possible.”
Matt Cain, Editor of gay magazine Attitude, said the survey confirmed what he has been aware of for some time. He said: “We’re glad that a popular holiday company like Virgin Holidays is now drawing attention to the enduring, uncomfortable truth about how gay people are treated when travelling to so many destinations around the world.
“It’s important that we keep the conversation going to tackle overt and underlying discrimination so that gay men no longer expect to encounter homophobia on holiday – and don’t have to put up with it.”