How gay-friendly hotels build safe rooms for LGBTQ guests

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As a drag superstar whose work requires her to travel the world, Trixie Mattel has not always felt safe in hotels. “Traveling alone with my guitar and my autoharp and a bunch of wigs, it was a struggle,” she said. “And I mean, taking the elevator down to the lobby in tow is scary.”

Mattel said that hotels have often made her feel that they are designed for gay men, with room to hang a suit, but no make-up or beauty lighting. So when she set up her own motel in Palm Springs, California, she wanted to learn from her experience. At the Trixie Motel, which also serves as the name of a new renovation show on Discovery Plus, she tore out walk-in closets to create what she calls a “glam room.”

“I can not have a drag queen-owned motel where people do not have a good mirror to get ready,” she said. “It’s just holy bread.”

While LGBTQ travelers often need to pay extra attention to comfort and safety when planning a trip, Mattel is among the hospitality business owners and operators who make an effort to promote inclusive accommodation. This applies not only to aesthetics, but also events, sponsorship and training of employees.

For Trixie Mattel, drag is an art form. It is also her empire.

For Laura Zequeira, general manager of Alexander’s Guesthouse in Key West, Florida, it starts before guests even arrive at the property. “It first starts with listing it on the front page of the site,” she said.

The homepage of the gay-owned and operated property states that “all people are of course welcome, but we also have a particularly safe place for members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer groups.”

Zequeira also implements rules for employees with the aim of promoting a positive, inviting environment. Employees are not allowed to talk about politics, which can be polarizing, or to “gossip”, and they have a mandate to “be loving and kind and tolerant of everyone.”

“We have to lead by example, which then creates the energy in space,” she said. “Then it translates to the guests.”

The hotel has joint events such as happy hour. With around 40 guests at a time, Zequeira said, Alexander is able to create a nurturing experience for visitors in a way a larger hotel might not. She said that the personal approach helps the staff to build relationships with the borrowers, and it pays to repeat business.

In high season, Zequeira said, 70 percent of bookings are returning guests, and many come every year.

Hotels have gone to the robots

Scott Wismont, president and senior travel consultant at LGBTQ Travel Concierge Rainbow Getaways, said fair service is an important factor in creating an inclusive hotel experience. He said it means “treating everyone with the same welcome, giving everyone the same level of service no matter who they are, who they are with … it goes a long way for LGBTQ travelers.”

Wismont said that diversity and sensitivity training for employees can help minimize micro-aggression and generally make employees more aware of how they interact with guests. This may include steps such as keeping the gender pronoun neutral until you know a guest’s preference.

John Tanzella, President and CEO of the International LGBTQ + Travel Association (IGLTA), said that hospitality companies should also work to ensure that the corporate culture is inclusive.

“If LGBTQ + people would not feel comfortable working for you or your front desk do not know how [to make] an LGBTQ + guest feels welcome, you can not really say that you are prepared to seek out gay travelers, ”he said in an email.

Halcyon, a hotel in Denver’s exclusive Cherry Creek shopping district, is training its workforce. The hotel’s parent company, Makeready, demands that all employees receive diversity training and inclusion annually, with a focus on goals in 2022 such as improving diversity in leadership, said Candace Duran, a spokeswoman for Halcyon.

The hotel is also working to cultivate inclusion in other ways, such as including LGBTQ-friendly events on weekly “what not to miss” lists handed out to guests. Concierges are also familiar with the local LGBTQ scene.

Pride is back – and more expensive than ever

In recent years, Duran said, a hotel can only run a campaign during the month of June for Pride. “And really, our celebration now is every day,” she said. “That’s what we do every month every year to be able to highlight and make sure they feel the love and the gratitude and the respect.”

Tanzella said there has been an increase in hotels that have emphasized LGBTQ inclusion in the last five years – and “even more in the last three, despite the pandemic.” However, there is room for improvement.

“We would like to see more staff training, more community involvement, more diversity of LGBTQ-plus people integrated into overall marketing, and more gender-neutral bathrooms, for a start,” he said.

Wismont said that while some hotels may temporarily add a rainbow flag or change their logo during the Pride season, others are “truly dedicated to being an active member of the Pride,” whether they offer employees the freedom to march in parades together. with brand or financial support Pride events. He noted that brands such as Marriott and Hilton often have a presence at local Pride parades, while some hotels also host events themselves.

“It’s a good way to find out who the good guys are,” Wismont said. He also recommended looking at which hotels support local LGBTQ charities, using an LGBTQ travel agency and reading reviews from other LGBTQ travelers on sites like Tripadvisor or Yelp. In addition to the company’s website and IGLTA, he recommended and

IGLTA also has a list of member companies, and Tanzella said they will implement a new hotel accreditation program later this year.

“We want to get to the point where everyone is welcome anyway, and you do not have to worry about things,” Wismont said.