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  WINDY CITY TIMES

LGBTQ travel conference looks at sustainability
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Bill Malcolm
2018-05-29

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Sustainability, diversity and inclusiveness were among the themes at this years International Gay Lesbian Travel Association Conference, held May 9-12 in Toronto. This was the conference's 35th year and featured attendees from 39 countries.

Toronto itself was a perfect host. The booming city looks more like Vancouver, with many new high rise condos along the shores of Lake Ontario and elsewhere. It claims to be the most inclusive, diverse, and welcoming city in the world. The city sports a new train to the airport, a revitalized airport, and a new aquarium.

Did I mention Kathleen Wynne, the premier of Ontario, is a lesbian? And that this has never been a factor in her tenure as provincial leader?

There was a lot of research news at the conference. Forty percent of LGBTQ travelers call themselves budget-minded, with an occasional splurge.

And we love to travel. Plus, we are year-round travelers, which fills a niche for hotels and airlines. ( Most others travel on holidays, during the summer and when school is out for the summer. )

Safety is a concern when we pick a destination. Politics are, too, with 59 percent of LGBTQ Canadian travelers skipping the United States for now ( presumably because of the current U.S. president ).

We are a diverse group. The vendors are, too, including a new tour company in Uganda, McBern Tours ( mcberntours.com ), with organizers discussing the challenges of operating there.

Maria Cuba, of Airbnb, highlighted some of its new programs, including tours of the Castro in San Francisco and queer Havana, and cooking schools.

Sustainability and ecotourism are also very popular, as is going local. Sustainability is being weaved into travel product offerings, making going green a positive.

Attending the conference were Jim McMichael of Las Vegas CVBA, Earl Fowlkes of DC's Center for Black Equality, Illinois Tourism Director Cory Jobe, Chris Pokorski of Detroit Metro CVB and others.

Travel companies that, 30 years ago, may have ignored or even shunned the LGBTQ traveler were there, including Celebrity Cruises, Delta Airlines ( a sponsor ), Hyatt Hotels, Marriott ( a platinum global partner of IGLTA ) and many more.

Illinois also had an ad in the program featuring the "Are You Up For Amazing?" theme. The state continues with its innovative niche-based tourism marketing, which makes campaigns like Pure Michigan look sleepy and tired.

For more information or LGBTQ travel ideas, go to IGLTA.org .

Thanks to LoAnn Halden, vice president of communications for IGLTA ( who is based in Ft. Lauderdale ), for her hospitality.


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