University Study on Gay Homestays

In August 2014 Lara Cahisa, a student at Edinburgh Napier University, published her Masters dissertation.

Here are the conclusions and recommendations from her research:

"How does trust influence gay men’s choices in travelling to LGBT-unfriendly destinations? A case study approach to Gay Homestays"

Since 2007 the global economic slowdown has provided the opportunity for the emergence of a new economic paradigm that is revolutionizing the travel industry as it is based on the concept of sharing instead of owning.

The factor that enables the success of the collaborative consumption economy is trust between strangers. Trust is a factor that absorbs uncertainty and risk perception and encourages people to engage in trusting conduct.

In the case of LGBT tourism, the LGBT community is increasingly targeted by a wide range of companies within the industry. A context of social change that shows increasing respect and acceptance of this community, has led to growth of interest in this niche market. However, there are still countries in the world where this community is criminalized.

This study aims to gain knowledge about gay men’s motivations in travelling to a destination with anti-LGBT legislation and the role played by the element of trust in the LGBT community’s travel behaviours. The referential frame selected to outline this study is based on the collaborative consumption platform Gay Homestays as a case study.

In order to achieve the objectives and aim proposed, a quantitative approach was undertaken of Gay Homestays customers. A self-completion questionnaire that was informed by the published literature was used as the main resource for primary data gathering and 332 respondents completed the questionnaire.

The findings of this study suggest that the appearance of the collaborative consumption platforms has resulted in a lower perception of risk by consumers and consequently, a greater willingness to travel to countries with anti-LGBT legislation. Thus, these findings appear consistent with the idea that trust is a factor that absorbs risk and consequently plays an important part in the LGBT community’s motivations in choosing an LGBT-unfriendly destination.

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5.2 Conclusion

The aim of this research project was to gain knowledge about gay and lesbian’s motivations in choosing a destination with anti-LGBT legislations and culture and to explore the role of trust in risk perception. To provide data for the achievement of this study’s aims and objectives, customers of Gay Homestays, a collaborative consumption platform based on peer-to-peer property rental, have been surveyed.

It is important to highlight that this research does not aim to generalize results, as the main objective is to understand the subjectivities of a group/community. However, the outcomes from the questionnaire can explain the social constructs of male homosexuals between 35 and 68 years old, who have used the Gay Homestays organization and who are mainly originally from the Anglo-sphere countries.

The results confirm that the participants’ perceptions have undergone a slight change regarding travel behaviour, specifically in relation to destinations perceived as homophobic and problematic. Thus, with the emergence of the new economic model and websites such as Gay Homestays that allow people to stay in a private property, some of the countries and areas avoided in the past are considered to be more accessible.

Therefore, these results suggest that the appearance of the sharing economy philosophy that has been adopted by online platforms has resulted in a lower perception of risk and consequently more willingness to travel to those countries.

Regarding motivations in choosing an anti-LGBT destination, pull factors related to destination ́s characteristics (supply) such as culture, history or local people are the main elements that would encourage the respondents, above intrinsic factors that come from tourist ́s desire (demand).

In addition, when it comes to homophobic destinations, internal safety of the country and homophobic legislation prevail over seeking social interaction with other LGBT people and the availability of LGBT infrastructure/gay spaces.

Although some respondents would suppress their sexual identity voluntarily while traveling to an anti-LGBT destination, since they do not consider that this defines themselves as a whole; for other participants to be socially active and supportive to the local LGBT community is an intrinsic factor that plays an important role when choosing an intolerant destination.

Therefore, it can be said that extrinsic elements such as the culture of a place and its internal safety assume a more relevant role in terms of choosing an anti- LGBT destination. However, the possibility of supporting the local LGBT community is an important incentive for a large proportion of respondents.

5.3 Recommendations

In order to improve marketing strategies within the LGBT tourism industry; specifically collaborative consumption platforms that cater to the LGBT market, some recommendations can be drawn from the findings of this research.

Despite there being a sector of participants that are reluctant to travel to an anti- LGBT destination, this research has proved that the emergence of the collaborative consumption economy has changed the perception of respondents regarding destinations with anti-LGBT legislations.

First suggestion as practical implication: there are two points to take into consideration in order to draw the first recommendation. Firstly, the findings proved that countries with LGBT-intolerant laws are currently considered to be more accessible thanks to the low perception of risk that is produced through the use of collaborative consumption platforms. Secondly, there is a strong will from a substantial party of the respondents to be socially active and to help the local LGBT community as the main motivations to travel to those destinations.

Therefore, the author suggests that a partnership between the tourism industry/collaborative consumption platforms and local LGBT associations would produce a more fluid and productive interaction between travellers and locals. This stronger relationship between guests and hosts could impact on the quality of the online reputation, and therefore an increment of trust on these platforms.

Second suggestion as a practical implication: like the recommendation above, there are two trends that could produce a useful practical implication. Firstly, there is evidence that the main motivations for the participants to travel to a country with unfriendly legislations are extrinsic and secondly, the willingness of a voluntary suppression of sexuality by a sector of the sample.

Therefore, it can be suggested that the promotion of destinations with anti- LGBT legislations could focus on its characteristics such as local culture and people, the tourism product of the destination and its safeness over its gay- friendliness or the availability of gay-spaces. This would result in a better embracement of the local culture and traditions by travellers and eventually, in a

bilateral change: the LGBT community’s perception of those destinations and the local’s perception of the LGBT community.

Third suggestion as a practical implication: This last suggestion is related to generational differences. As it has been mentioned in chapter 4, older generations (over 35 y/o) are less likely to undertake the risk and engage in trusting conduct, while younger generations are more likely to take the risk and travel to a destination with anti-LGBT legislations. In addition, younger generations’ subjective perception of risk regarding hosts is a factor that influences their destination choices.

Therefore, the author suggests that the marketing and promotional material from the travel industry regarding countries with anti-LGBT laws should be differentiated by generations. Concerning older generations, it could be launched an specific promotional strategy in order to engage them with the platform; in addition, it would be important for the platform to improve the quality of its online reputation.

In respect of younger generations, another specific marketing strategy could be adopted by promoting the destination as a place to make meaningful connections with hosts.

5.4 Future Research

While this study provides a practical understanding of LGBT motivations in choosing an anti-LGBT destination and the role of trust in risk perception, there are several suggestions for future studies.

Future research should use a larger sample size in order to gain in reliability of data and to be able to generalize results to the totality of the LGBT community. Another factor to take into consideration is the literature published regarding the LGBT community as a whole. Lesbian, transsexual and bisexual’s travel motivations have been less studied than gay behaviour, therefore these elements of the community would need further and specific research.

Furthermore, studies regarding motivations in choosing an unfriendly country should be produced for “non- Anglo-Saxon” communities.

Finally, this study is based on the subjective point of view of people who use a collaborative consumption platform as a tool to have a different travel experience. Hence, because it depends on social constructs and people ́s subjectivity, the findings might differ slightly when trying to replicate this study.