LGBTQI+ friendly destinations and Pride events around the world: Visitors will help Australian tourism bounce back

During the summer months in the northern hemisphere, dozens of cities, large and small, hold Pride events to celebrate LGBTQI+ identity and love. From Lisbon to Reykjavik the streets blossom with joyous parades, cultural events and fluttering rainbow flags.

San Francisco Pride is the largest parade with over 100,000 spectators but almost everywhere you travel in June and July you'll run into festivities, including Tel Aviv, Bogota, Sofia, Oslo, Colombo, including many countries where discriminatory laws make it a risk to hit the streets. There's even Ozark Pride.

This year marks 53 years since New York erupted in violent riots in protest of a police raid on the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. The June 28, 1969 event is considered to be the spark for the worldwide gay rights movement.

In Australia, we had our own reckoning nine years later, on the night of June 24 1978, when a small group of protesters marched peacefully down Oxford Street in Darlinghurst in solidarity with the international celebrations and were brutally assaulted by police, with 53 arrests. The national focus this brought on the gay and lesbian rights movement helped establish the annual parade we now know as Mardi-Gras.

From Mardi-Gras grew a number of celebrations around Australia, such as Midsumma Pride in Melbourne in March and Tropical Fruits held in the Lismore NSW showground each New Year's Eve. (This was cancelled last year due to the floods but is on the schedule for NYE 2022-23. Fingers crossed for them.)

Although the riots these days are more about riotous costumes – sequins, big wigs and glitter hot pants - the fight for equal rights still continues around the world.

The LBTQI+ Travel Safety Index ( ranks 203 countries from A-F in terms of most friendly to downright dangerous for gay travellers, based on 10 factors such as legalised same sex marriage, protection against discrimination and morality laws. Brunei, a country I'll never visit, which punishes homosexual acts with death by stoning, is the most dangerous, followed by Nigeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and 68 other countries that have the ignominy of being awarded an "F".

Countries Australians visit frequently, such as Singapore, China, Turkey, the Philippines, Laos and Macau only get a D. Australia gets a B+, mostly because criminalisation of violence laws and transgender rights vary from state to state. The recent federal election, where marginalised and vulnerable trans people were made a pivotal issue for political gain, shows we have a way to go.

Luckily, the election also showed that most Australians disapprove of such discrimination when it's brought before them, and this is a strong case for continuing the fight for fairness and compassion in a public way in celebrations that are underpinned by protest each year.


Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi-Gras kicks off each February and continues into March. During the pandemic, the Parade was moved from its traditional Oxford Street location to the Sydney Cricket Ground, where the floats paraded around the oval, the audience relegated to the stands. But it was still a hugely entertaining and emotional event. I always get a lump in my throat at the sound of the Dykes on Bikes revving their engines to start the parade.

Next year the parade is expected to return to Oxford Street to mark the 45th anniversary of the event. It's a big year for the Australian LGBTQI+ community because Sydney will also host WorldPride, the mega Pride event which is held every two or three years in a different host city. The first was in Rome in 2000 and the last in Copenhagen-Malmo in 2021.

Running from February 17 to March 5, WorldPride also includes a three-day Human Rights Conference, a First Nations Gala Concert, a women's party, Bondi beach bash and the Pride March across the Harbour Bridge.

The influx of cashed-up LGBTQI+ tourists is going to be a real blessing for Australian tourism at a time when other international tourists are slow to return. The Gay Games, which fosters self-respect through sport, culture and fellowship, was held in Sydney in November 2002 and 11,000 athletes attended across 25 sports. It was a huge boon for tourism and the local community.

Having an international reputation for tolerance, inclusion and friendliness might be a bigger attraction for many tourists than beaches and koalas.

And these visitors bring the party with them.