What’s Your Travel Discrimination Story?

One of the true beauties of travel is that it exposes us to diverse people and experiences. It is an opportunity for us to learn about cultures we’re otherwise not privy to in our everyday lives. But there is a vulnerable side to journeying past the threshold of our familiar settings — we risk being scrutinized for our individual characteristics, especially physical ones. Perhaps being stared at a second too long for looking different is harmless. But what about being treated unfairly because of your skin color, gender, sexual preference or physical disability?

The July 2010 issue of Business Traveler Magazine features readers’ stories of discrimination during travel. We’ve re-posted three experiences from the article below and added some stories from the Boingo Facebook community. The accounts range from “disturbing” to “heartening,” and many are “thought-provoking.”

Gym Off Limits to Women:

“While visiting Jeddah in Saudi Arabia for a global economic conference, my colleagues and I were staying at the Hilton. Naturally, I understood that as a woman in Saudi, I would need to respect the cultural norms, wear an abaya outside of the hotel, etc. However, I expected that within the confines of the Hilton, a leading American hotel chain, I could expect to be treated as an equal to my male colleagues.

I was therefore extremely dismayed and offended to be told that the gym was off limits to women, and that, if I was interested, I could visit the bowling alley instead (but only within certain hours, when it was allocated for the use of women). “

Two Male Travelers Must Mean Two Double Beds:

“When I have checked in at hotels with my husband (I’m also male, and yes, we were married during the short period of time it was legal in California), there have been many instances where the front desk staff see us, and see the reservation is for a single bed, and want to “correct” it for us.

Once, at the Westin in Maui, the front-desk agent insisted we’d be more comfortable in a room with double beds, instead of just quietly accepting the reservation wasn’t wrong and discreetly giving us our key. Instead, he challenged the reservation and our assertion that it was correct, making the process embarrassing and uncomfortable.

Continental, Delta and United airlines have all questioned both companion upgrades, and also membership-lounge access, where you are supposed to be allowed to bring a spouse, plus a guest, or only a guest. (But my husband somehow didn’t count as my spouse, and two guests weren’t permitted.)”

Indian-Only Section at Restaurant in Thailand:

“An Indian fellow student and I were in Thailand in a restaurant waiting to be seated. The manager asked us, “Indian?” I replied that, yes, my friend was Indian and asked what was so interesting about it. He told us to wait, and I found myself in an apartheid-like situation that required all Indians to sit in one section of the restaurant. I discovered that Indians are often forced to sit and work in separate areas in Thailand, and that there is very news little coverage of this. I have never felt so insulted.”

For more travel discrimination stories, read the rest of the Business Traveler article here.

Here are a few travel discrimination stories from the Boingo community on Facebook:

What’s your travel discrimination story and how did you deal with it?

About Melody Demel

Melody is Senior Manager, PR for Boingo Wireless, where she is responsible for media relations, brand building and thought leadership initiatives. Melody is a die-hard Nebraska Cornhuskers fan and retired NCAA DI college field hockey player.
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One Response to What’s Your Travel Discrimination Story?

  1. As a teenager traveling, some airline personnel believe that I require a lesser amount of service and friendliness than my adult counterparts. There have been many times traveling alone when I step onboard the plane and the flight attendant glares at me instead of greeting me with a smile and a “hello.”

    I believe the assumption is either that I’m used to bad treatment or too naive to make a note of it. Little do they know that I do travel blogging and am BFFs with the airline people on Twitter. On the flipside, I also tweet airlines of exceptional service that I have received.

    Airline personnel – it only takes me 140 characters to get your supervisor involved, whether he’s/she’s putting a recommendation in your file or telling you to be a little nicer next time.