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World Popular Destinations

Discover the top-ten most travelled destinations in 2019 and how they fare for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. With Coronavirus vaccines on the horizon, international travel will likely resume in 2021 and, with it, allowing us again to begin dreaming of and planning for exotic, sunny and luxury destinations once more. Many popular travel destinations offer visitors stunning views, excitement, history, and entertainment; however, how do the governments of those countries treat community members?
  Your adventure begins
2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. With the devasting loss of life around the globe, national lockdowns, and restricted travel, the world around us has changed. The travel and hospitality industry globally has been one of the worst hit by the pandemic. With school holidays cancelled and many intrepid explorers disappointed by being forced to cancel or change their plans. What was once a flight away has become a mammoth challenge, made even more difficult by the ever-changing rules and restrictions imposed by each country. There is hope with over ten vaccines currently being developed by large well-known and trusted pharmaceutical companies. There are positive signs with the vaccines all at different stages of the trial process. Hopefully, that we are getting ever closer to a solution that gets the pandemic under control, resulting in life beginning to return to some form of normality.

With the pandemic hopefully downgraded to an epidemic status and many first-world countries likely reopening their borders, international travel could quickly resume. Even with the likelihood that many countries will create restricted travel corridors from early 2021. Many industry experts predict a surge of bookings and large numbers of people traveling as we get closer to the summer months, which are traditionally peak or high seasons for travel. Using the Top 100 City Destinations: 2019 edition report produced in 2020 by Euromonitor International ( and by overlaying the LGBTQ+ 2020 Equality Index (, it enables us to look at the top-ten destinations and how they score from an LGBTQ+ equality perspective. The Euromonitor report focuses on international travel, meaning people that travel from one country to another, rather than internal movements within any given country. So, let us begin
Article - LGBTQ+ Focus: World Popular Destinations (Hong Kong)
  Top 5
Discover the top five most visited destinations around the world. Learn more about the country’s LGBTQIA+ equality status and what makes them popular amongst tourists
QUICK LINKS | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
Ranked 1st - (Hong Kong, China) – Eastern Asia
The top of the list and most travelled destination in 2019 with over 26.7 million visitors was Hong Kong in Eastern Asia. A bustling city, home to its distinct areas, nightlife, and shopping districts, many people flock to Hong Kong each year for business and pleasure. Hong Kong is a popular LGBTQ+ destination and has a lively, proud, and visible local community. The city decriminalized same-sex activities in 1991 and has since made many positive changes to achieve a Medium-High score. However, activists are still working hard to ensure the region introduces anti-discrimination laws and permits same-sex marriages and unions.
Ranked 2nd - (Thailand) – South-Eastern Asia
Second on the list is Bangkok in Thailand, which received over 25.8 million visitors in 2019. Bangkok has long been a top destination in Asia for the LGBTQ+ community. Bangkok has a lot to offer with its impressive architecture, floating markets, and long history. Thailand and its people are very tolerant and accepting, with sexual and gender identities seen as personal choices rather than one for public debate. The city has a large community and a busy and exciting nightlife, a must for those that live for the night. Thailand decriminalized same-sex activities in 1956 and have anti-discrimination laws in place. However, same-sex unions and partnerships are currently under review within the National Assembly.
Ranked 3rd - (Macau, China) – Eastern Asia
Third on the list is Macau, an administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, which received over 20.6 million visitors in 2019. Macau is nicknamed the Vegas of China, given its large number of casinos, entertainment, luxury, and decadence. There is no visible LGBTQ+ community within Macau; however, many activists are trying to change that. The city is predominantly conservative; given this, discretion and caution are often required by any LGBTQ+ individuals planning to visit. Macau is changing; however, it currently scores medium-low in terms of equality but fortunately decriminalized same-sex activities in 1996.
Ranked 4th - (Singapore) - South-Eastern Asia
Fourth on the list is Singapore, the city-state located in South-Eastern Asia, which received over 19.8 million visitors in 2019. Even though Same-sex activities are illegal in Singapore, there have been very few prosecutions over the years. There is a visible LGBTQ+ community in Singapore, with gay bars and clubs found in specific areas within the city. LGBTQ+ visitors are typically surprised by how relaxed the community is within Singapore; however, discretion is still advised, especially concerning public displays of affection. Singapore currently scores low, and recently there have been several campaigns to repeal Section 377A, which relates to outrages on decency.
Ranked 5th - (United Kingdom) – Northern Europe
Fifth on the list is London in the United Kingdom, which received over 19.6 million visitors in 2019. The capital of the United Kingdom and home to a large and visible LGBTQ+ community, London is both a popular travel destination and a gay-friendly city. Though there are many LGBTQ+ dedicated bars and clubs across the city, the Soho and Charing Cross areas are where you will find the largest and most well-known bars and clubs. Brexit has created many uncertainties for international travellers. However, visitors will continue to flock to this European city each year, given its impressive architecture, long history, and iconic landmarks. The United Kingdom is ranked as very high in terms of equality. It has in place anti-discrimination laws and recognizes same-sex unions and marriages.
Article - LGBTQ+ Focus: World Popular Destinations (Paris)
  Top 10
The top-10 most visited destinations received a combined 191.9 million visitors in 2019, representing 28% of the top-100 destinations. The cities ranked 6-10 are:

The top-ten destinations from an LGBTQIA+ perspective create a 50/50 split. 50% are in the low end of the equality scale and 50% in the high end. Three out of the seven countries still have laws in place that criminalize same-sex activities, with two countries (Dubai and Malaysia) still prosecuting those within same-sex relationships. Of the total, 106.4 million travellers visited countries with a medium-high to high equality status, and 85.5 million visited countries with a medium-low to low equality status. Asia is the most popular continent of all destinations with a staggering 153.3 million or 79.9% of all travellers, followed by Europe at 38.6 million or 20.1%.

  World of Possibilities
Given that there are no official censuses or questions relating to sexual or gender identities to those visiting any given country, it is hard to know LGBTQ+ travel behaviours. The community will likely follow similar trends to that of the rest of the world. However, people will probably be more cautious when visiting countries known to be hostile towards the LGBTQ+ community. It is possible to visit countries with discriminatory and anti-LGBT community policies. However, they could face severe repercussions if their sexuality in that country were exposed. Compared to those living in that country, the treatment of visitors will likely be very different, but no matter how discrete or how easy someone can blend in. Ultimately, how a government treats its LGBTQ+ citizens should be considered when making any travel plans.

Travelling opens you to a world of possibilities, learning more about new cultures, meeting interesting people and broadening your understanding of the world around you. 2020 has been a challenging year; however, 2021 will likely bring opportunities for us all to begin travelling again and reconnecting with the far away and exotic places. LGBTQ+ visitors have the same criteria as their heterosexual counterparts, to experience, discover, and visit beautiful and unique locations around the world.

May 2021 bring hope, happiness and new horizons


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