GLOBALLLY GAY

JOHN TANZELLA IS THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF IGLTA – THE INTERNATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN TRAVEL ASSOCIATION. HE TALKS TO US ABOUT WHY THERE IS STILL A NEED FOR AN LGBTQ+ FOCUSSED TRAVEL ORGANISATION – AND THE QUEER-FRIENDLY HOTSPOTS TO LOOK OUT FOR IN 2022 

IGLTA was founded in 1983. Why was there a particular need for a LGBTQ+ travel organisation then?

A group of LGBTQ+ guesthouse owners and travel advisors wanted to identify safe destinations for their travel clients and to support each other in business. These was pre-internet, but post-Stonewall, so more people were coming out, but it wasn’t so easy to find welcoming holidays.

And now in 2021? surely we don’t need such a focused organisation? or do we?

Yes, we do. In fact, it feels like IGLTA is more in demand than ever before. When you’re based in a place that has equal rights for LGBTQ+ people, it’s easy to forget how challenging it is for LGBTQ+ people in other parts of the world. It’s also important to be mindful that those who are non-binary or transgender often have a more difficult time finding safe travel spaces. Even in destinations that are progressive, there is still a need for education within the hospitality industry as to how they can be truly welcoming.

How does IGLTA promote LGBTQ+ tourism?

We produce a biweekly newsletter for LGBTQ+ travellers and have created a global pride calendar and numerous LGBTQ+ travel and safety guides, which are all free resources. We do a lot of work behind the scenes, providing information and education to travel businesses and destinations that want to be supportive.

Through our philanthropic IGLTA Foundation we are able to do even more outreach and conduct LGBTQ+ research projects to share with the industry at large. The IGLTAF fellowship program has brought some amazing LGBTQ+ small business owners and young hospitality professionals from around the world to our convention for education and mentorship, and we’re continually striving to expand our support for LGBTQ+ businesses in emerging or destinations or places with business challenges for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.

What changes have you witnessed both in terms of favoured destinations and attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ traveller?

We’ve seen so many more destinations express a genuine desire to be inclusive, and it’s resulted in a much larger array of choices for our travelling community, far beyond major cities and long-established LGBTQ+ resort towns. There has also been a shift away from the “one size fits all” mentality in destination marketing, and acknowledging that, within the acronym LGBTQ+, there is a spectrum of identities, races, ages, sizes and interests. It’s been encouraging to see more LGBTQ+ people woven into the overall fabric of brands and not just treated as a niche market.

What more needs to be done?

LGBTQ+ tourism needs to do a better job with tackling racism, sexism, trans invisibility — there is a need for not only more inclusive messaging but also more inclusive hiring practices. Even though it’s improved, gay (very fit), white,
male couples are way too often the default image to represent the community. We are as diverse as the non-LGBTQ+ community.

How do you think the pandemic has affected the LGBTQ+ travelling community?

We conducted two LGBTQ+ travel sentiment surveys, early in the pandemic in 2020 and again one year later, and they underscored that LGBTQ+ travelers are ready to travel, and represent a resilient, loyal audience for tourism businesses that make the effort to genuinely welcome them. Interest in Pride events and LGBTQ+ festivals ranked highly, indicating the strong desire to reconnect within our community after so much time in isolation.

Let us in on a secret (we won’t tell, honest): what are going to be the hottest LGBTQ+ destinations in 2022?

We are seeing our tour operator members booking small cruise ship charters. Southern African safaris will be big, because after all the time away from travel, people are no longer putting off those dream trips. As for more specific destinations: Italy, Spain, Japan, Iceland, Colombia, and Puerto Rico.

What is John Tanzella’s ideal vacation?

A quiet place to unwind and relax, but also one that has a great food scene, entertainment (shows, plays, festivals, etc.) and. typically, warmer weather.

Go to: iglta.org

“LGBTQ+ travelLers are ready to travel, and represent a resilient, loyal audience for tourism businesses”