Govt should reach out to travel guide over gay warning

Government should “reach out” to travel guide Frommer’s about its warning that Bermuda is repressive to gay people, says the United Bermuda Party.

Kim Swan, interim leader of the UBP, said that his party wants “a Bermuda that is fair and welcoming to all”.

Frommer’s travel advisory to Gay and Lesbian travellers “is extremely serious with far reaching repercussions for Bermuda as a welcoming destination for all people,” Mr Swan said.

The advisory, as reported in The Royal Gazette last month, says: “Think twice before planning a holiday on Bermuda. Although many gays live in and visit Bermuda, the Island is rather repressive to homosexuals, and for most of its existence, Bermuda had laws making sex between consenting legal-age males a crime subject to imprisonment.

“That is no longer the case, but displays of affection by same-sex couples will be frowned upon at public beaches and most hotel pools, restaurants, and attractions.”

It then goes on to recommend other destinations that are more accepting of gay people.

“Whilst discrimination against anyone is wrong, this travel advisory publication is suggesting that Bermuda as a society has the propensity to discriminate against a certain segment of society — in this case the gay and lesbian community,” Mr Swan said in an e-mail to The Royal Gazette.

Bermuda may have already been harmed by such an advisory, he continued.

“For example, a gay or lesbian CEO or business owner's company could easily be dissuaded from recommending Bermuda for a convention of predominantly non gay colleagues based on the advisory issued by Frommers. There are numerous other hypothetical situations.”

Mr Swan added: “We reiterate that the Bermuda Department of Tourism must immediately reach out to Frommers. Although the Frommer's advisory is an immediate issue for the Bermuda Department of Tourism, it also is a matter that impacts on all of us as a society.”

Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert did not respond to a request for comment.

The Island’s official Opposition One Bermuda Alliance has also refused to comment on the issue.

The issue came to light when booking agent Fiona Campbell alerted this newspaper to reports and online commentary which were causing potential visitors to rethink their decisions to come to the Island.

She said one gay couple wrote to her to say their research had indicated that Bermuda was not “gay friendly”.

At the time, Mr Furbert said that he did not understand the meaning of “gay friendly.”

A spokesperson for newly formed local support group Rainbow Alliance, said: “Regarding whether or not Bermuda is 'gay-friendly' — Gay-friendly means welcomed and accepted ... and the presence of spaces for queer people. Gay people are not welcomed, or accepted here, and there are very few, if any, safer spaces for LGBTQ people in Bermuda.

“Bermuda needs to become a safer space for LGBTQ people in Bermuda, as well as for those visiting. However, it is concerning that we have to convince people of the ‘economic value’ of expanding rights to LGBTQ people (through expanded tourism) in order to gain supporters in our struggle for greater equality and protection.”

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