Whenever I travel to a place unknown to me, I always look for the queer community in the area. As a gay man, connecting with the local queer history and people everywhere I go helps me find a sense of solidarity with the community. So, I was intrigued when I saw this LGBTQ + travel index from the travel company ParkSleepFly Published September 2021.

Reportedly, it is considered “the best places for LGBTQ + travelers in the US and abroad”. The index rates travel destinations based on various metrics, such as the inclusiveness of a city’s laws and regulations, but also based on the number of local bars and clubs. That seemed absurd to me; it implies that all queer travelers want to go somewhere to party without clarifying whether those places are strictly queer-friendly. Other unusual factors include the number of hotels and their average nightly rates, which perhaps makes more sense considering that ParkSleepFly is a company that seeks to sell hotel and parking packages. But while this list raises more questions than it answers, one rules over the other – what actually makes a destination “best” for LGBTQ + travelers?

“The word ‘best’ is absolutely relative,” said Bryan Herb, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Zoom vacation, which focuses on luxury gay group travel. Herb says it’s reductive to paint people in the queer community and their travel priorities with broad lines. Conversations about queer travel already tend to center gay men, and this index does the same thing: Domestically, the top spot goes to Orlando Florida, and the runner-up is Palm Springs, California—Two travel destinations popular with gay men. (Not surprisingly, the international list Vallarta Harbor.)

This trend leaves out a lot of queer travelers, says Jill Cruse, vice president of guest experience at Olivia, a travel company for queer women. Looking at the ranking, she says: “If you say that there is a place that is the top travel destination for LGBTQ + travelers, what is the matrix for that?” Even if a ranking isolates the nebulous metric security, so Cruse , the question of what is “safe” for queer travelers depends on whether a traveler is, for example, a lesbian or a trans woman or a non-binary person or a gay person. And security also varies between destinations; some queer women might feel comfortable holding hands in public, in a city where two queer men might not.

While some queer travelers prefer destinations that offer both cultural and physical comfort, others want to get out of their comfort zone and literally take less traveled roads. Miles Mitchinson, the owner of Diversions, who specializes in adventure travel for gay groups, says his company recently had to add additional tours to Egypt due to high demand: not traditionally known as queer-friendly travel destinations. “