LGBT+ inclusion is an opportunity for the Caribbean

A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 30 June 2021

Delighted and encouraged to see today’s launch of ground-breaking new research by Open for Business making the economic case for LGBT+ inclusion in the Caribbean.

For the Virgin family, the Caribbean has always been a place close to our hearts. Wind-swept and sun-drenched, it is a gorgeous part of our planet, and its island nations are home to diverse and vibrant cultures that have so much to offer. Since the 1980s, Virgin Atlantic has flown millions to the region’s destinations, from Barbados to Cuba. Our new cruise line, Virgin Voyages, will soon sail Caribbean waters. As the world becomes ever more connected, Caribbean nations are open for business, keen to expand both tourism and trade.

Lauri-Ann Ainsworth, CEO of the Branson Centre Caribbean, sits at a desk with Lisandra Rickards, former CEO of the Branson Centre Caribbean
Image from Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship

But, like all places, the Caribbean faces its challenges, and the new report, supported by Virgin Atlantic, makes for sobering reading at times.

Archaic laws and attitudes, often a legacy of colonialism, continue to repress LGBT+ populations and turn off would-be LGTBT+ visitors. In many of the 12 English-speaking Caribbean countries at the heart of this report, LGBT+ people are frequently discriminated against, even criminalised for who they are and who they love. All this comes at a real and significant cost – to local economies, to communities, and ultimately of course, to the people.

The crew for Virgin Atlantic's pride flight posing with LGBT+ flags
Image from Virgin Atlantic

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Across 12 English-speaking Caribbean countries, continued LGBT+ discrimination comes at cost of up to $4.2 billion a year, as much as 5.7% of annual GDP.

  • Tourism in the Caribbean is diminished by anti-LGBT+ laws and stigma, at a cost between USD 423 million and up to USD 689 million, or 0.57 – 0.93% of its regional GDP.

  • There is a real brain drain: LGBT+ skilled workers migrate and stay in more open societies – leading to lost human capital, productivity and output, as well as reduced competitiveness.

The upside is that the business case for LGBT+ inclusion is strong and compelling. 

  • There is strong relationship between rights for LGBT+ people and GDP as well as GNI (gross national income) per capita. Additionally, support for marriage equality also has a relatively strong correlation to GDP.

  • Countries that decriminalize same-sex acts likely benefit from increased labour productivity. 

Two women holding the Pride flag
Virgin Voyages

Change is possible, and it will benefit all Caribbean nations. As so often, it starts with dialogue – between governments, business, the LGBT+ community, and their advocates.

That’s what Open for Business is all about: making the case, starting a conversation. Virgin is proud to be a founding partner, and I’m hopeful these findings will make a difference, in the Caribbean and beyond.

Richard Branson outside the Stonewall Pub in New York
Image from Virgin Voyages

Head over to Open for Business to download the report and learn more.