|by Sean O'Neill||Hotels, LGBT||9|
Today Expedia has added a filter for gay-welcoming hotels in its main search tool. Here's how it works: Say you search for a hotel in Toronto. The site will fetch a list of hotels available for your travel dates. You can filter the results to only include hotels with the perks you want by checking off "amenities listed in the right-hand column. As of today, there's a new amenity to choose from: "LGBT-welcoming." It's listed along with other options, such as "air conditioning" and "fitness equipment." (If it's a hotel is truly gay-welcoming, it will probably have both air conditioning and fitness equipment, too. Haha.)
So far Expedia has only had time to tag hotels in a handful of destinations. Gay-friendly hotels only pop up if you do searches for visits to Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, New Orleans, Palm Springs, Provincetown, San Francisco, and South Florida. International destinations with the LGBT-welcoming filter include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, London, Toronto, and Puerto Vallarta. A search for a stay in Puerto Vallarta, for instance, turns up two hotels labeled "LGBT-welcoming": Abbey Hotel (from $61 a night!) and Vallarta Palace All Inclusive (a much fancier joint, from $347).
At the moment, the site lists about 500 hotels worldwide, though that is an undercount of how many gay-welcoming hotels there are out there, obviously. Expedia was helped in determining which hotels to use by the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).
Expedia's strategy differs somewhat from its competitors' tactics. By adding "gay-welcoming" to its universal list of amenities, the site allows gay travelers to use the the same search engine everyone else uses on its homepage to hunt for hotels. Travelocity took a different strategy by putting a link on its homepage to "gay travel" and then listing gay-friendly hotels in a separate search tool on its LGBT travel page (gaytravelocity.com). Orbitz also has a separate gay travel page, but no search filter for LGBT-friendly hotels.
All of this is a big change for Expedia, owned as part of the same company as TripAdvisor. More than 50 readers have commented, from all perspectives, on the notion of LGBT-welcoming search on the earlier blog post "TripAdvisor Playing It a Little Too Straight."