OutOfOffice is the new LGBT- friendly online travel agent that is raising the bar for how the industry caters to gay travellers.
Launched at the end of 2015 by ex-journalist Darren Burn, OutOfOffice’s mission has been to narrow the divide between the appearance and the reality of businesses that claim to be LGBT-friendly. Burn says he was inspired by his personal experience as a gay man who loves to travel. “I went to Egypt with my ex-boyfriend a couple of years ago and I spent ages researching where was safe and open to go,” he told the Guardian. “But when we got there the hotel was really unwelcoming – we had to find somewhere else. I realised I should be able to go anywhere in the world and have that reassurance.”
Burn describes several ways in which businesses and travel agencies fall short of providing a real service for LGBT travellers, from travel agents that advise travellers to simply not ‘mention’ their sexuality, to brochures that only feature heterosexual couples, and then the more obvious, awkward or even potentially dangerous experiences.
And OutOfOffice seems to have gotten it just right, turning over £1 million in just its first 3 months. With gay staff, OutOfOffice has set itself the goal of opening up more destinations to LGBT travellers, as well as providing more extensive information for LGBT travellers by pairing up with businesses they’ve evaluated as being LGBT-friendly. Their website reads: “Out Of Office prides itself in working only with suppliers who welcome everyone, regardless of who you love. All of our itineraries are built from the ground up with gay people in mind but open to all.” Burns stresses that they cater to all travellers, and that often heterosexual travellers will use them as they like the trendier and open-minded businesses OutOfOffice deals with.
According to market researcher Forrester, the LGBT travel industry is worth £6bn in the UK and $85bn in the US. In recent years it’s seen a boom thanks to the legalisation of same-sex marriage too, with the number of honeymooning gay couples up by 279% in the last five years.
Whilst progress may seem evident, and the need for LGBT-specific travel agencies are unnecessary, John Tanzella of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association says this is misleading. “It’s easy to assume, especially when based in a major urban centre like London, that everyone is aware of LGBT travellers,” he told the Guardian, “That is still not the case in far too many parts of the world.”
There are currently 75 countries around the world that have anti-homosexuality laws, so the need for a guiding light as demand for LGBT-friendly travel increases, is sure to make OutOfOffice a success.