App for LGBTQ+ travellers launches at Europride


writer icon Kay Lagercrantz     THERESE ÖHRVALL   |   Startups     🕐 03. Aug. 2018

A new app targeting the gay travel market has launched during the Europride festival in Stockholm. 

Gayze is described as a gay travel guide with a combination of travel tips and recommendations, as well as a social network and potential dating app. It also includes up-to-date advice about what to consider as an LGBTQ+ traveller in different countries around the world. 

Born out of necessity
Today’s launch is the culmination of two years of hard work from co-founders Elin Wibell and Stelios Vasilantonakis. They are both Swedish, but while Vasilantonakis is located in Stockholm, Wibell is based in Singapore.

“The application was born out of a personal need. [Vasilantonakis] was really missing such an application himself while out travelling”
, Wibell explained.

Gayze provides country-specific advice to its users. It suggests activities and places based on the user’s location. It is also possible to see the profiles of other users in the same place, and there is the opportunity for people to strike up chat-conversations, even arrange dates.

A variety of recommendations
It is important to Wibell and Vasilantonakis that there should be a wide variety of suggestions and recommendations. It would not be enough to only feature things that are purely aimed at LGBTQ+ people.

The decision to include places that are not exclusively for LGBTQ+ visitors means that the app is better positioned to avoid outing businesses and individuals. Nowhere is labelled as “gay”. Instead, places are called “welcoming”.

This distinction is important, as it could be very dangerous for some people and businesses to be "outed" in their own country.

A criminal offence
In 2018, it is a criminal offence to engage in same-sex sexual contact in 74 countries in the world. In ten of those countries, homosexuality is punishable by death. In places where the danger for exclusively gay places is too great, they may still be recommended, but they are listed together with other must-see locations. There is no reference to the fact that they are gay-friendly. 

“We want to ensure that people are not in danger and should not fear to travel in certain places”
, Wibell said. “That everyone should be able to explore through travelling.”

Reviews from locals
The app also features reviews provided by local ambassadors, as well as from Vasilantonakis and Wibell themselves. All reviews are based on first-hand experiences.

Wibell explained how the local ambassadors offer a real and genuine insight into the cities and travel destinations. They are able to recommend the hot spots in a city, and point out the things that are not to be missed by travellers. “This is something that you can only get from locals”, she clarified, pointing out that the recommendations provided via Gayze “have a quality seal to them”.

More than a travel guide
Wibell recalled the start of their journey, where the aim was to create a high-quality travel guide that would also function as a dating app for gay men.

The project evolved when the co-founders discovered the reality of the situation for LGBTQ+ communities around the world.

“It was humbling and worrying to learn how bad the situation is for the LGBTQ+ community in certain places”
, she said.

Gayze does not exist to pass judgement upon less tolerant countries, nor is it designed to aid boycotting. “With Gayze we don't point fingers, but we do believe that with exposure comes tolerance”, Wibell explains.

“Through travel and interaction, we hope to change perceptions and stereotypes”

Future launches planned
The version being released today is aimed at homosexual men, but the intention is to expand the target group in the future. Following the Stockholm launch, Gayze will be released in similar launch events around the world. Later this year they plan to launch in Asia.

Ultimately, Wibell and Vasilantonakis want to see a world that is friendly and safe for everyone, including LGBTQ+ travellers.

Vasilantonakis summed it up, saying that “[Gayze] really has a social conscious. Our work has started from a place of passion and love.”

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