5 tips to help businesses prioritise LGBTQ+ business travellers

LGBTQ+ professionals face increasing discrimination and safety risks when travelling for work globally. Picture: Unsplash

LGBTQ+ professionals face increasing discrimination and safety risks when travelling for work globally. Picture: Unsplash

Published May 14, 2024


According to Bonnie Smith, GM of Corporate Traveller, while there’s a lot of talk about inclusivity business travel, it is an area where progress has been slow, an issue which companies need to address.

The business travel expert highlighted that research showed that LGBTQ+ professionals face increasing discrimination and safety risks when travelling for work globally, with a 2023 survey revealing that 94% of LGBTQ+ global business travellers experienced discrimination, and 82% changed hotels due to safety concerns.

“The lack of inclusivity in business travel is troubling. It creates uneven playing fields for LGBTQ+ employees, limiting their career opportunities if they feel unsafe travelling. This hurts both individuals and organisations.

“Plus, it undermines a company’s diversity efforts and reputation,” said Smith.

She said to fix this, companies must prioritise supporting their LGBTQ+ employees when travelling; this means training all staff on inclusion, establishing clear policies to address discrimination, and partnering with LGBTQ+ travel-friendly providers.

“By making business travel more inclusive, companies can support their diverse workforce and demonstrate a real commitment to equity,” she said.

So how can companies better support their LGBTQ+ employees on the road?

Smith said that a good travel management company (TMC) can be invaluable as they have global representatives with invaluable local knowledge to assist LGBTQ+ travellers.

“They understand the unique risks and cultural sensitivities of specific destinations and are also accustomed to helping employees who may not have disclosed their identity but need guidance,” she said.

Smith also noted that for companies with a significant number of business travellers, having an inclusive travel policy was crucial and closely tied to their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies as businesses with robust DEI policies are better equipped to support the preferences and concerns of all employees when travelling for work.

She said that companies that truly live their DEI values ensure business travellers know what to expect and can avoid risky situations while on the road, and this includes providing guidance on using dating apps and social media in different locations, as even these can potentially lead to problems.

“Organisations that make employees feel safe and respected, including when travelling for work, are more likely to retain talent. An inclusive travel culture can improve morale and make staff feel valued by their employer,” said Smith.

So here are 5 practical tips for supporting LGBTQ+ travellers, according to Smith:

  • Offer staff members a pre-trip risk assessment while respecting the privacy of those who have not ‘come out’ to their colleagues. This will help you better understand their needs and concerns so that you can address them effectively.
  • Work closely with your employees to craft an inclusive travel policy. Appoint diversity representatives who can engage directly with your travel management company, ensuring the needs of all staff are heard and met.
  • Many non-binary and transgender people are hesitant to use gender-neutral travel documents due to concerns about increased security checks or bureaucracy. Find out your employees’ views on this, and work with your travel provider to accommodate their preferences where possible.
  • Ensure your travellers have access to LGBTQ-friendly services, including health care, at their destinations. Consult resources like the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA.org) to identify businesses owned by or welcoming to sexual and gender minorities, or ask your TMC to pre-screen service providers.
  • If corporate travel is particularly uncomfortable or unsafe for your LGBTQ+ staff, consider alternatives such as shorter trips or teleconferencing, especially for destinations that pose higher risks.