For us at Royal Djurgården, it is of utmost importance that you should feel welcome to Djurgården no matter who you are. Our island should be a welcoming place and we always strive to sharpen our skills to make all of our visitors feel welcome. On November 25th we had the honour of participating in the Stockholm LGBT+ Travel Symposium hosted by the Vasa Museum here at Djurgården. We want to share our experiences from that day so that both our visitors, and our colleagues at Djurgården, can gain new knowledge in how we best greet our LGBTQ+ visitors.
The day began with a presentation by Karin Mäntymäki from Visit Stockholm who told us about why the group of LGBTQ+ people see Sweden as a good place to visit. Karin said that Stockholm is seen as an open and welcoming city that cares about sustainability, and the idea of a better future. LGBTQ+ people are a group of early adopters who appreciate cities that includes both contrasts as well as accessibility in the form of the non-normative climate that Stockholm provides. The protection of the freedom that Sweden provides is important for these visitors and equally for us here at Djurgården.
During the seminar, the pandemic, and the competition between destinations to attract visitors were discussed. As a result of the pandemic, it has been shown that this group is looking for personalized travel by going back to using travel agents and travel agencies to create trips that matches what they are looking for. They want to stay longer at the destination to make fewer trips. LGBTQ+ people were among the first to start traveling after the pandemic. It is gratifying for the hospitality industry that this group has returned to travel and this is an opportunity for us to think about how we best can give them a good and safe experience.
Statistics show that 85% of LGBTQ+ people worldwide have not come out to family and friends. Many people live with the worry that they will not feel welcome when they visit a destination, and practical necessities such as passport control and ticket handling can cause anxiety for people in the trans spectrum. How do we ensure that no one needs to experience this in Stockholm?
To return to the part of the LGBTQ+ community that identifies as trans people, one of the seminar’s speakers was Gabrielle Claiborne from Transformation Journeys. She gave a very important and knowledgeable presentation on how we as actors in the hospitality industry can make transgender people feel safe and welcome. She says that an important part is the language we use. If we use a gender-neutral language, we better include all people without risking addressing anyone in an inappropriate way. But to understand how to use our language we need to understand the basic concepts:
The question of who we are and who we feel like resides in our head. Our gender identity is what we perceive ourselves to be and have nothing to do with our anatomy and / or the gender we were assigned at birth. In trans people, the exterior does not match the interior and it creates a feeling of not feeling at home in oneself. For a trans person it is extra important to be greeted correctly.
A simple thing we can do when we welcome a visitor is to ask about their pronoun. Instead of starting from the visitor’s gender expression and assuming a certain pronoun, we should instead ask to avoid mispronunciation. Another thing we can do is write our own pronouns on our name tags. This is not only a to show our own gender identity, but it creates the impression that we have the skills needed to be able to treat all people fairly.
Later during the seminar, we discussed how the hospitality industry markets itself to the LGBTQ+ community. In two panel discussions, we got to know more about the commonly perceived image of LGBTQ+ people in marketing – often represented by the white gay man. For a long time, the marketing activities have been based on that type of person alone and have not represented transgender, lesbian, queer, and black people. We need to represent these groups to a higher degree to get a more heterogeneous marketing. If we want these people to visit our destination, we need to show that we see them, hear them, and we want them to visit.
The fantastic day arranged by Stockholm LGBT at the Vasa Museum was very educational and important for us at Djurgården. We have gained a lot of useful knowledge to put into use and we look forward to creating a more open, accessible, and welcoming destination for all our LGBTQ+ visitors.
Read more about Stockholm LGBT and their work.