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Hotels: Expedia adds "gay-welcoming" to list of searchable amenities

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012

Today Expedia has added a filter for gay-welcoming hotels in its main search tool. Here's how it works: Say you search for a hotel in Toronto. The site will fetch a list of hotels available for your travel dates. You can filter the results to only include hotels with the perks you want by checking off "amenities listed in the right-hand column. As of today, there's a new amenity to choose from: "LGBT-welcoming." It's listed along with other options, such as "air conditioning" and "fitness equipment." (If it's a hotel is truly gay-welcoming, it will probably have both air conditioning and fitness equipment, too. Haha.)

So far Expedia has only had time to tag hotels in a handful of destinations. Gay-friendly hotels only pop up if you do searches for visits to Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, New Orleans, Palm Springs, Provincetown, San Francisco, and South Florida. International destinations with the LGBT-welcoming filter include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, London, Toronto, and Puerto Vallarta. A search for a stay in Puerto Vallarta, for instance, turns up two hotels labeled "LGBT-welcoming": Abbey Hotel (from $61 a night!) and Vallarta Palace All Inclusive (a much fancier joint, from $347).

At the moment, the site lists about 500 hotels worldwide, though that is an undercount of how many gay-welcoming hotels there are out there, obviously. Expedia was helped in determining which hotels to use by the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).

Expedia's strategy differs somewhat from its competitors' tactics. By adding "gay-welcoming" to its universal list of amenities, the site allows gay travelers to use the the same search engine everyone else uses on its homepage to hunt for hotels. Travelocity took a different strategy by putting a link on its homepage to "gay travel" and then listing gay-friendly hotels in a separate search tool on its LGBT travel page (gaytravelocity.com). Orbitz also has a separate gay travel page, but no search filter for LGBT-friendly hotels.

Expedia has also unveiled its new LGBT travel page (www.expedia.com/daily/gaytravel), which provides a smattering of info, such as month-by-month lists of Pride festivals around the world.

All of this is a big change for Expedia, owned as part of the same company as TripAdvisor. More than 50 readers have commented, from all perspectives, on the notion of LGBT-welcoming search on the earlier blog post "TripAdvisor Playing It a Little Too Straight."

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As history has taught us, a boycott can be an effective way to send a message to "the man." But is it effective when "the man" is a travel company, a hotel—even an entire state? Arizona's recent immigration law, which requires that police officers in the state check the immigration status of individuals they suspect lack documentation and whom they encounter during proper procedure, has caused some cities to boycott business travel there, including St. Paul, Minn., and Oakland, Calif. In a USA Today article last week, Phoenix deputy city manager David Krietor said that the city could lose up to $90 million in business in the next five years, because major conventions are choosing to move locations, and tourists might decide to travel elsewhere. This isn't the first time Arizona has been in the news for a travel boycott. Back in the early '90s, the state refused to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. day with a paid holiday, and lost the bid to host the 1993 Super Bowl because of it. Voters ended up approving the holiday. The more recent boycotts seem to be serious enough to cause their own backlash— in San Diego, possible tourists have already called to cancel plans, apparently because of the city's support of a travel ban to Arizona. Speaking of California, a few of San Francisco's hotels are being boycotted by Local 2, a union of hotel workers. Members of the union have been working without a contract since last fall, when negotiations with hotels stalled because of a fight over health care. A flashmob recently popped up at the Westin St. Francis and did a clever song-and-dance routine to publicize the ban. (Many thanks to our intrepid San Francisco-based blogger, Justine Sharrock, for pointing this issue out!) Many smaller-scale bans of all kinds are organized via Facebook (of course). Remember when Spirit Airlines announced it would charge $20 for carry-ons?. Yep, there's a Facebook group that advocates banning the airline. Do travel boycotts work? Well, no one's really sure. But it seems boycotts can cause lost revenue, public discussion, and a heck of a lot of bad PR. So I put the question to you: Have you participated in a travel boycott? Would you? What do you do when politics and travel intersect?

Hertz promo waives $25 daily fees for young renters

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Inspiration

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