What makes an inclusive place to stay?

Co-Founder of Further Afield, Simon Forrester, talks about why he and partner Andrew began to curate this collection of wonderful, inclusive, gay-friendly places to stay.
When I first met my partner, Andrew, I entered the world of romantic mini-breaks. Like Bridget Jones, I knew that they happened in the countryside and featured log burning fires, long walks and romantic meals in quaint pubs.

This is all many moons ago. Our relationship survived its foray into the British countryside and we have deleted the memory of the shuffling and uncomfortable owner of the bijou hotel in the Lake District whose discomfort with us was never communicated but clear for us to feel. We prefer to remember the wonderful hotels, owned and run, by warm, friendly and caring people with nothing but complete respect for us and our relationship: The romantic Chateau in France where we shared five courses of exquisite food and bountiful wine with the owners or the funky urban chic country house in Devon whose youthful owners were very proud of their gay guests and not in a pink pound kind of way.

We are often asked what ‘makes a hotel gay friendly’. For me the main clue is in the word ‘friendly’. I don’t need a constant corporate smile and I don’t need my towels tying into flamingos. I do however expect to be treated with the same respect as other guests and their partners, and want to be made to feel relaxed and comfortable from the get go. Today the world has moved on in so many ways but there are still places to stay that maybe don’t welcome everyone quite as openly as they should and Further Afield represents a body of places to stay that really don’t care.

There is training out there to help hotels and their staff put gay travellers at their ease, avoid the wrong language and daft questions, and while that may help, it is really the ethos and values of the people who run and manage the hotel which are crucial. For me it is about whether they are genuinely gay welcoming or are they just ‘box ticking’, and are they mindful of the fact that some gay travellers are still worried about the reception they will receive at their holiday accommodation.

The aim of Further Afield was to meet the owners to find out what makes them tick as well as checking out the hotel for quality and personality. Many of the places to stay are gay owned but not all, and what unites them is an insightful approach and genuine welcome for all travellers.

I still have in the back of my mind, Andrew and myself arriving at a hotel in the Lake District after knowing each other for just a short time….younger, shyer and slightly less sure than we are today, and I want to understand how will they be greeted and treated.


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