Glenn McKeag, CEO of Springbok Atlas, said: “I do think this market is still very untouched when it comes to discovering Africa and the South African experience.”
He said with gay marriage now legal in Australia, they had seen a spike in interest for honeymoon packages to Africa: “This could mean some positive steps in getting more Aussies to our beaches and on safari.”
Globally, LGBT travel spend amounts to US$211 billion per year (recorded in 2016 by OutNow), showing a growth rate of around 27% since 2011, when it totalled US$165 billion.
Jason Fiddler, CEO of Travel and Show, and Key Accounts Manager for the Board of KwaZulu-Natal Gay and Lesbian Tourism Associates (KZNGALTA), believes the LGBT tourism sector has further growth potential.
According to Fiddler, South Africa’s tourism industry can further capitalise on LGBT travel, as openness creates tourism opportunity, tolerance and eventual acceptance spur LGBT interest, and traveller spend automatically stimulates economic growth. “This is about business; it is a consumer market and should not be about discrimination.
“LGBT tourism remains a key growth market for SA as worldwide competition for tourism spend intensifies, with our destination remaining popular as an LGBT-friendly destination, much, in part, thanks to Cape Town’s reputation, but moreover the value people see in the country’s diversity of tourism experiences.
“Apart from the global research that is validating our understanding of LGBT travel, the continued ‘globalisation’ of universal human rights, in particular gender equality, LGBT recognition and respect are adding energy to community members to travel, travel openly, together and further afield than ever before,” said Fiddler.
South Africa was the first country in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, with gay and lesbian rights written into the constitution and, as a result, remains the African LGBT destination of choice. However, Fiddler has since seen significant change in countries such as Mozambique and the Seychelles.
“Where countries are starting to de-criminalise colonial-era legislation – aimed primarily at homosexual behaviour – such as Mozambique and the Seychelles, tourism economies can now start to be equitable and acceptable LGBT-friendly destinations where the tourism spend is essential to reversing economic decline,” he said.
During the 2017 World Travel Market Africa in Cape Town, Chairperson of KZNGALTA, David Walker, said: “On a continent where over three dozen nations have discriminatory laws against LGBT people, tourism remains the positive driving force for change.”
This was reiterated by Fiddler who said there was a homophobic stigma attached to Africa, but he saw tourism as the ultimate game changer.
He said Cape Town remained an LGBT tourist hotspot, along with the Western Cape, a favourite for international tourists, although Johannesburg was becoming increasingly attractive as an accessible urban destination that offered a variety of LGBT nightlife and community events. Durban is growing steadily as a favourable pink-friendly destination, due to its affordability and its climate.
McKeag said North America was Springbok Atlas’s largest source market for LGBT travel. “Suppliers in South Africa and some suppliers in neighbouring countries are open to accepting gay travellers, in particular areas such as Cape Town, Kruger lodges, Madikwe, Johannesburg, Victoria Falls, Zambezi lodges on the Zambian side, as well as Botswana’s Delta and Moremi.”
“Having said that, Africa as a continent is seen as anti-gay and has heavy penalties, fines and even imprisonment imposed in some African countries,” said McKeag, adding that it was to the detriment of the continent.