How businesses can make corporate travel more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ and solo travellers

Corporate travel can often be a lonely journey for employees but there are ways companies can make process more inclusive. Picture: Supplied

Corporate travel can often be a lonely journey for employees but there are ways companies can make process more inclusive. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 3, 2023


With the business landscape ever evolving, inclusivity in business travel is gaining more attention, both as a key factor in attracting and retaining talent and as a reflection of a company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

A recent poll by Business Travel Show Europe revealed that 66% of programmes don’t make provision for the LGBTQ+ community, over half don’t have special considerations for solo women, and 41% of travel programmes fail to consider people with accessibility needs.

Globally, there has also been a notable trend where employees are seeking a more fulfilling work-life balance as well as a more inclusive workplace.

For instance, top talent in South Africa are leaving their jobs to work independently, often consulting back to their former employer on their terms or exploring opportunities abroad.

In order to combat this brain drain, Corporate Traveller GM, Bonnie Smith, recommends that companies should stop relying on flashy perks like luxury watches, shopping trips, and new cars, companies and focus on fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued.

“Show that you’re willing to invest meaningfully in your employees and that you want to create a long-term growth plan for them,” advised Smith.

She said that one of the unique benefits companies can offer to enhance an employee’s learning and growth potential is business travel.

“Since the pandemic, the nature of corporate travel has significantly changed. Companies are being more intentional with their travel, and often, only upper management is allowed to travel, making it a powerful incentive and clear indication of an employee’s value,” said Smith.

The GM emphasized that the principles of DEI must be incorporated into business travel and that it is crucial for companies to actively engage with their travellers to understand their unique travel requirements, and incorporate them into the travel policy.

She said this could mean acknowledging safety concerns for LGBTQIA+ travellers in certain destinations, preferences for hotel locations and establishments for solo women or providing mobility assistance at the airport for travellers with accessibility challenges.

“By including their specific requirements in the travel policy, companies can create a more inclusive work environment. Organisations have to ensure that their internal culture is conducive for LGBTQ+ talent to flourish. Complacency in this regard is no longer acceptable,” said Smith.

The Corporate Traveller GM noted that business travel had come a long way despite challenges.

“All Corporate Traveller’s customers’ needs are important to us, and we do acknowledge social injustice exists. We encourage our business travellers to be as open with their consultant as early as possible with any concerns regarding their destination and travel programme.

“For example, if a traveller identifies as LGBTQ+ and needs to travel to a country where the local laws are different to South Africa, we can ensure they’re booked into accommodation where they will be respected and supported with the service and facilities required for a safe and productive stay,” said Smith.

She also highlighted that there is still room for improvement, especially given that half of the LGBTQIA+ community have reported experiencing discrimination during their travels.

A recent study found that 68% of the LGBTQIA+ community have to consider their safety and wellbeing when choosing a travel destination, and 63% believe certain destinations are off-limits due to them being gay.

Smith noted that multinational organisations can play a unique role advocating for equal treatment in countries that lack protections for gay individuals.

“Organisations can act as a haven for LGBTQ+ people who may not otherwise feel comfortable being themselves. Being able to reach out and connect to LGBTQ+ colleagues across the world can create a sense of belonging and increases the visibility of allies across the business,” said Smith.

She said that while travel can indeed be a powerful tool for change and inclusivity, it requires proactive efforts from travel and hospitality businesses to build inclusivity into their practices.

Read the latest Travel magazine here.