Virgin Atlantic teams up with Open for Business to show economic cost of LGBT+ discrimination in the Caribbean 

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LONDON, England – Virgin Atlantic has partnered with Open for Business on new research to show the economic cost of LGBT+ discrimination in 12 English-speaking Caribbean countries.

The economic case for LGBT+ Inclusion in the Caribbean features data from the largest ever survey of Caribbean LGBT+ people (those currently living in the region plus diaspora), as well as prospective Caribbean tourists, and interviews with business leaders and employees of Caribbean-based companies.

Kathryn Dovey, executive director of Open For Business, said: “This data sends a clear message to political and business leaders that LGBT+ discrimination and criminalization is holding back economies in the region. If these countries want to increase tourism and not lose talented workers to other countries, they need to embrace greater diversity and inclusion. Businesses in the region are beginning to demonstrate their commitment to LGBT+ inclusion but much more needs to be done.”

The research shows that the challenges that LGBT+ people in the Caribbean confront on a daily basis are stark: state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia are prevalent, as is significant social stigma.

For example:

  • Nine of the 12 countries still criminalize same-sex intimacy;
  • For trans people, none of the 12 countries allow a change of sex or gender marker on state identifications.

The evidence shows that tourism, the key industry in the Caribbean, is hurt by the region’s perceived anti-LGBT+ environment. Survey data of potential LGBT+ and straight tourists finds the key reason given for NOT visiting a country in the region is because of the negative image they have of how LGBT+ people are treated.

Similarly, 60 percent of LGBT+ and straight people would visit a country (Barbados) but only after its government passes legislation allowing same-sex unions. This comes at a significant financial cost to the region. We estimate that $689 million of potential tourism revenue is lost each year due to existing beliefs about the region’s treatment of LGBT+ people.

Businesses are a source of hope in the region: many companies have been taking a strong stance on LGBT+ inclusion. Interviews with regional business leaders point to a growing focus on training, as well as other activities to improve diversity among staff and to be welcoming of all visitors.

Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer, Virgin Atlantic said: We are proud to work with Open for Business on this incredibly powerful piece of research. The Caribbean is – understandably - one of the biggest leisure destinations we fly to and one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. But, sadly it is also one of the least inclusive. Tourism plays a vital role in the economies of many Caribbean countries, which have felt a particularly harsh impact from the global slowdown of travel caused by COVID-19.

“To support the region’s economic recovery in the future, it is essential for destinations to attract the widest possible demographic of travellers, including those who identify as LGBTQ+ and allies of the community.  At Virgin Atlantic, we want every single person who travels with us to feel they can be themselves on holiday and we will continue to use the power of our brand to push for change around the world.”

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