How do you decide where to travel? Maybe you’re looking for a beach getaway, or a romantic urban experience. But for members of the LGBTQ community, picking a travel destination isn’t always so easy–travelers also need to be aware of a place’s attitude toward LGBTQ issues like marriage equality, sexual activity laws, and civil rights.
A new tool released by the nonprofit PFLAG Canada and the Canadian ad agency FCB/SIX gives LGBTQ travelers a quick snapshot of how friendly any place in the world is to the community. Though PFLAG Canada aims to help families reconcile differences when it comes to LGBTQ issues, the idea for the project actually came from the ad agency, which then partnered with the nonprofit to bring the tool to life and help people learn about the laws and sentiment toward LGBTQ people in different places.
“This can be little things, like when you stand at hotel check-in as a same-sex couple and what assumptions do staff make about you,” says Ian Mackenzie, the executive creative director of FCB/SIX. “From micro moments like that, to the big stuff, like traveling to Egypt–which has some pretty severe laws and regulations concerning the LGBTQ community.”
The tool, called Destination Pride, lets users search for a city, and then presents them with a snapshot of its score by turning the iconic rainbow Pride flag into a data visualization. Each of the rainbow colors of the flag become the bars of a bar chart, and each represents a different area of LGBTQ rights. The first five colors are based on data drawn from a LGBTQ database called Equaldex and Wikipedia about marriage equality, sexual activity laws, gender identity protections, anti-discrimination laws, and civil rights and liberties. The final purple bar measures social media sentiment in that city and represents the average percentage of positive LGBTQ comments that occur on platforms like Twitter for the past 90 days. Each city’s data viz is interactive, allowing you to click on it to learn more about each category and what it means. The use of the Pride flag as a way to communicate the protections for those rights around the world is a smart, elegant piece of data visualization.
Destination Pride has granular data on 2,000 cities around the globe, and if it doesn’t have specific data for a place it estimates a score based on a larger region. Each score is based on an algorithm that looks at all six elements that make up the flag visualization and distills them into a single number–New York, for instance, is a 66 and San Francisco is a 68. Of the largest 100 cities in the world by population, the safest cities for LGBTQ folks based on these scores are primarily in central and South America–including Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, and Mexico City. These aren’t the typical cities you might associate with gay rights, like San Francisco, London, or Barcelona, and Mackenzie hopes that the tool might provide the LGBTQ community with information about other, less touristic destinations where their rights would be strongly protected.
The cities with the lowest scores are primarily in the Middle East and northern Africa, including Tehran, Iran; Baghdad, Iraq; and Giza, Egypt. However, Mackenzie says he doesn’t want the tool to discourage members of the LGBTQ community from visiting any of these places, or discount the progress of civil rights movements in low-scoring cities. “We know for a fact that members of the LGBTQ community can have a great time in Jamaica, in destinations that are ranked low, and we don’t want to discourage LGBTQ progress,” Mackenzie says. “But we do think that for traveling members of this community, [by] having a quick snapshot from the pride flag visualization and the score you can make a more informed decision.”
Ultimately, he hopes that the tool will become a platform that other companies can integrate into their services, similar to how Rotten Tomatoes scores show up on Apple’s iTunes store. Its easy to imagine websites like Lonely Planet or Trip Advisor–or even travel reviews in the New York Times–integrating a small version of the flag visualizations or even Destination Pride’s numerical score into their pages for particular destinations.
Knowing which locations are safe for travel and which require caution is vital information for people of all backgrounds–and for the LGBTQ community, Destination Pride makes that challenge a little bit easier.