Skip to main content

6 ways the gay travel scene has changed over 6 decades

Cast your mind back to the 1960’s and the LGTBQ scene was a different world. Since then, and over the period of 6 decades, we’ve seen the Stonewall riots, pride marches, the gay liberation movement, the AIDS epidemic and section 28 all play pivotal roles in the progression for sexual equality.

But it’s not just the gay political climate that has seen huge developments, the gay travel scene has also been on quite the journey. With the LGBTQ market now worth £6bn in the UK and $85bn in the US, it’s clear the demand for LGBTQ travel is higher than ever.

Let’s take a moment to see how much the gay travel scene has progressed in the past 6 decades, along with recent developments in LGBTQ tourism.

1960’s – The first gay tourism guide

Commercial gay tourism first begun to emerge in the mid-late 1960’s, with the first gay tourism guidebook Damron Men’s Travel Guide giving gay men the option to book holidays via a gay tourism infrastructure, where they could check out gay hotels/resorts and have access to information on gay clubs/restaurants and entertainment. From this point onwards gay travel began to be advertised in gay newspapers and lifestyle magazines.

1970’s – The rise of gay travel companies

Hanns Ebensten, the founder of HE Travel, ran the first exclusively gay adventure tour in 1973. The tour, which took men rafting down the Grand Canyon, marked the beginnings of gay travel companies. 45 years on and HE travel is still going strong as the leader in gay travel tours and gay adventures.  HE Travel is now one of many LGBTQ travel companies catering for all different types of holidays and experiences. is one of the newest LGBT travel start-ups, arranging gay-friendly flights, hotels, transfers and excursions for its customers. With a turnover of £1M in the first 3 months, there’s no doubt that gay/LGBTQ travel companies are here to stay!


1980’s – Nations grant equalities to same-sex couples, increasing LGBTQ travel destinations

Denmark made history in 1989 by becoming the first nation in the world to recognise registered same-sex partnerships. Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, is one of the longest established gay-friendly destinations, offering countless events, boutique accommodation and bars, including Europe’s oldest gay bar, ‘Centralhjørnet’, for the LGBTQ community. New Zealand, Canada, Berlin, New York, Mykonos and Iceland have since seen huge advances in gay rights and subsequently these are some of the many locations now seeing a rise in LGBTQ travellers.


1990’s – LGBTQ cruising companies

Cruising is now a renowned way to travel for the LGBTQ communities. According to a 2015 survey by Community Marketing Inc., a research firm specializing in the LGBTQ travel market, 16% of LGBTQ travellers took a cruise in the previous year. With cruising becoming an option for LGBTQ travellers to feel at ease and open about their sexuality, the industry has boomed over the past 30 years. RSVP vacations, established in 1985, is the originator of the gay and lesbian cruise concept, and since then companies such as Atlantis and Olivia have emerged as major players in today’s LGBTQ cruising industry.

2000’s – The LGBTQ travel honeymoon industry goes BIG TIME

With Denmark leading the way in same-sex marriages in 1989, followed by the likes of Canada, Columbia, France, Sweden, Spain and the UK, the Gay & Lesbian honeymoon industry has emerged BIG TIME. The Caribbean, Cape Town and Costa Rica are among some of the top destinations for LGBTQ honeymooners today with companies like catering for the audience. Sites such as ABTA now also provide a whole load of information for honeymooners.

2010’s – Pride parades continue to spread across the globe

Pride parades have been going strong since the 1970’s, commemorating the 1989 Stonewall Riots. The first Pride march took place in 1970 from Washington Square Park. Since then, Pride has marched its way around the world and most recently graced the streets of South Africa, Uganda, Hong Kong, India, Israel and Japan – countries that have historical not been as liberal as others. Pride in London has become one of the most iconic LGBTQ events, taking place this year between Saturday 24 June to Sunday 9 July 2017.