New Insights Call for Greater Support for LGBTQ+ Business Travellers

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Here Are Some Actionable Steps To Make Business Travel Safer And More Inclusive For All Employees

Business travel is a common necessity, but for many LGBTQ+ professionals, it comes with unique challenges and concerns. A recent Opinium survey reveals a significant portion of business travellers from the US and Canada are apprehensive about visiting regions where anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments or laws prevail. Alarmingly, a notable number have faced harassment related to their gender or sexuality during their travels.

The survey highlights a crucial gap in corporate support: very few companies provide essential information about LGBTQ+ rights in the countries their employees are visiting. This oversight can leave LGBTQ+ employees vulnerable to discrimination and safety risks, especially in a global climate where violence and legal barriers against the community are on the rise.

As we honor Pride Month and stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ+ colleagues, World Travel Protection emphasises the need for proactive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ employees on business trips. By implementing supportive policies and providing comprehensive resources, companies can foster a safer, more inclusive environment for all their travelling staff.

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Business travellers are concerned about visiting regions known to be biased against members of the LGBTQ+ community.

A majority of business travellers (64% US, CAN 56%) express concern about travelling to a region, state, or province known to be biased against or to criminalise relationships of people who identify as homosexual or transgender. Dozens of countries across the world criminalise same-sex relationships.

“We are seeing an increased backlash against the LGBTQ+ community in many parts of the world, including here in North America, resulting in rising concerns about visiting certain regions that are unwelcoming or hostile toward the LGBTQ+ community or that have discriminatory laws,” says Frank Harrison, Regional Security Director Americas at World Travel Protection. “We know these are real and valid fears: Members of the LGBTQ+ community can face a range of safety concerns when they travel, including harassment, violence, incarceration, and even barriers to medical and security assistance.”

Work travel is widely perceived as less safe for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Half of business travellers surveyed (US 56%, CAN 47%) agree that travelling for work as an LGBTQ+ employee is less safe than travelling as a heterosexual or cisgender person. Incidents of harassment and threats against LGBTQ+ individuals are increasing, and a notable percentage of business travellers say they have witnessed or experienced harassment due to sexuality (US 22%, CAN 15%). Similarly, many have seen or experienced people needing to hide their sexuality while travelling for work (US 21%, CAN 17%), likely as a result of safety and security concerns.

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Companies need to provide much more support and information to all employees about how to keep LGBTQ+ travellers safe.

Among those surveyed, relatively few reported that their company provides information on LGBTQ+ rights for the countries they are visiting – either to employees who have disclosed they are LGBTQ+ (US 15%, CAN 11%) or to employees who have not disclosed their sexuality (US 15%, CAN 13%).

“Organisations must recognise the specific risks and concerns that LGBTQ+ business travellers face and ensure they feel supported and safe,” says Harrison. “When sending LGBTQ+ employees to parts of the world where their rights are not fully recognised by the host government, there needs to be a plan in place to support them.”

Harrison offers actionable guidance to companies looking to help keep LGBTQ+ employees safe while travelling:

  • Put a comprehensive plan in place and communicate it clearly. This includes providing pre-trip information, noting how to access medical support specific to their needs (especially in places where healthcare could be refused to LGBTQ+ individuals), and outlining clear protocols for addressing any incidents that may arise.
  • Share pre-trip guidance with all employees, not just those who are open about their gender identity or sexual orientation. Don’t assume you know who will need the information – give it to all employees so that those who may not be out at work have the information they need to stay safe.
  • Let employees decide whether or not to travel. When an employee receives their pre-travel awareness briefing, they may decide it is unsafe for them to travel to a destination, and organisations need to offer and respect that, encourage an open dialogue, and honor their decision.
  • Foster an inclusive and accepting culture in the workplace. Feeling safe while travelling starts with establishing a respectful and inclusive corporate culture where all employees can bring their whole selves to work.
  • Lean on travel risk management experts to understand the known risks at every location. Travel risk management companies play an important role in supporting LGBTQ+ travellers by offering pre-trip intelligence about known risks and resources tailored to their needs.

Harrison adds, “By understanding the unique risks and providing targeted support, companies can help mitigate the challenges LGBTQ+ travellers face and promote a safer, more inclusive travel experience.”

*This article offers a snapshot of the attitudes and perceptions of business travelers from the US and Canada. Research was conducted by Opinium Research from February 1-8, 2024, amongst 1,000 adults who travel for business at least once a year in the US (500) and Canada (500).

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Find out how we can help you travel safely

Ensuring healthy journeys extends beyond health considerations. At World Travel Protection, we stand as a 24/7 travel and medical assistance partner, dedicated to aiding customers in times of medical, travel, and security emergencies. Through our Travel Risk Management Solutions, we offer comprehensive support to travellers before and during their journeys, accessible through our user-friendly portal, app, and expert in-house assistance. Discover the proactive measures you can take by filling out the form below.