LGBTQ discrimination costs the Caribbean up to $4.2 billion annually, new research shows

Virgin Atlantic and Open for Business highlight the economic cost of LGBTQ discrimination in the Caribbean in new study


Words: Markus Bideaux; picture: Pexels

LGBTQ discrimination costs the Caribbean up to $4.2 billion annually, according to new research co-produced by Virgin Atlantic.

The airline partnered with Open for Business, a coalition of companies making the case that inclusive and diverse societies are better for economies and economic growth, on the study.

'The Economic Case For LGBT+ Inclusion in the Caribbean', which looks at 12 English-speaking Caribbean counties, was presented in a public webinar yesterday and is available to download here.

"We will continue to use the power of our brand to push for change around the world"

LGBTQ Caribbean individuals suffer widespread state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia, with nine out of the 12 countries researched still criminalising same-sex intimacy and all 12 denying gender affirmation surgery or gender markers on state identifications.  

The $4.2 billion a year cost of discrimination amounts to 5.7% of annual GDP. Tourism in those countries also suffers an annual loss of $689 million (0.93% of annual GDP).

The survey data of potential LGBTQ and straight tourists found that the key reason given for not visiting a country in the region is because of the negative image they have of how LGBTQ people are treated. And 60% of LGBTQ and straight people would visit a country but only after its government passes legislation allowing same-sex unions.

As a result of the stigma attached to being LGBTQ in the Caribbean, the report indicates that the islands suffer a 'brain drain' with many LGBTQ skilled workers migrating to more open societies leading to lost human capital, productivity and competitiveness.

Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Commercial Officer, Juha Jarvinen, 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.” 

The Executive Director of Open For Business, Kathryn Dovey responded to the data saying: “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 report included surveys with Caribbean LGBTQ people both currently living on the islands and abroad, as well as prospective Caribbean tourists and interviews with local business leaders and employees.