Caribbean countries are losing billions of dollars per year through laws that discriminate against LGBT+ people and criminalise their behaviour.
Research covering 12 English-speaking Caribbean countries found they were collectively losing up to $4.2 billion per year – around 5.7% of their annual GDP – due to anti-LGBT+ discrimination, which includes laws against same-sex acts in nine of these countries.
The 12 destinations, which include Jamaica, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Bahamas, are losing an estimated $689 million per year from tourism alone due to LGBT+ discrimination.
This was one of the main findings of a new report, entitled The Economic Case for LGBT+ Inclusion in the Caribbean, which has been produced by Open for Business with support from Virgin Atlantic.
The report is the most comprehensive of its kind ever produced on the subject in the Caribbean, and campaigners hope to use it to encourage governments and businesses to change their policies on LGBT+ rights.
Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer at Virgin Atlantic, said: “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.
“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 LGBT+ and allies of the community.”
Speakers during an online event to launch the report stressed that while reducing LGBT+ discrimination was a “human rights issue”, showing the economic costs of current policies could help focus the attention of both governments and businesses in countries that are so reliant on tourism.
Kathryn Dovey, executive director of Open For Business, added: “This data sends a clear message to political and business leaders that LGBT+ discrimination and criminalisation 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 study also found that 18% of LGBT+ travellers would not currently visit the Caribbean because of anti-LGBT+ laws and stigma, as well as safety fears.
While 60% of all holidaymakers would visit countries in the region but only if the destination’s government passed a pro-LGBT+ policy.