Celebrating its 30th year, the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) convention opened in Chicago May 1.
The conference, which will bring in attendees from more than 20 countries, runs through May 4 at the Hyatt.
At a May 1 opening press event at Willis Tower, speakers connected the growth of LGBT travel to advances for LGBT rights. The press conference was hosted by IGLTA conference sponsor United Airlines.
"LGBT travel goes hand-in-hand with LGBT rights around the world," said Tanya Churchmuch, board chair of IGLTA.
Dave Hilfman, United's senior vice president of worldwide sales, said: "With more than 85,000 co-workers from around the world, United proudly celebrates the richness of not just our employees' diverse backgrounds, but our customers' too. As we say, diversity flies with us. And United is honored to sponsor IGLTA's convention in Chicago this year."
Among those at the event were the IGLTA Foundation's five Building Bridges Scholarship recipients. They hailed from Suriname, Peru, Brazil, the U.S. and Liberia. Charlie Rounds, IGLTA Foundation leader, also addressed the press conference.
The 2013 IGLTA Building Bridges Scholarship recipient are:
Student: Kathy Eow is studying Hospitality and Tourism Management at Florida International University and looks forward to the day when the LGBT community isn't pigeonholed by the "niche market" label.
Student: Teddy Frank is making his first visit to the United States from his home in Liberia, where he is enrolled in airline studies and supports the Stop AIDS in Liberia organization.
Student: Kleber de Oliveira da Silva is pursuing a master's degree in tourism and hospitality at Brazil's University of Vale do Itajai. This is also his first U.S. visit.
Small Business: Aaron Paiva Leyton runs Peru Magia y Mysterio, offering tours that explore what it means to be Peruvian, the country's history, and its culinary arts. He recently started an LGBT section on Peru's official website: TravelFabulousPeru.com .
Emerging Destination: Jermain Tjin-A-Koeng is from the Republic of Suriname. His organization, LGBT PLATFORM Suriname, works to raise the profile of the LGBT community in his countryhe sees the connections made through travel as particularly beneficial to their goals.
IGLTA will open this year's convention with a commitment to ending child trafficking and prostitution, the organization announced. The group is signing on to the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, a set of guidelines intended to prevent child exploitation. According to IGLTA, the organization is the third association to adopt the code.
This year's conference will honor Center on Halsted with the IGLTA Community Award.
In addition, Center on Halsted will host IGLTA's consumer trade show on Friday, May 3 from 6:30 p.m.- 10:30 p.m. More information on that event is available at www.glbttravelexpo.com/happiness/ .
Check back for Windy City Times updates from the conference through May 4. Information on IGLTA and the conference is available at www.iglta.org .
Last photo, from left: Travis Ferland, IGLTA Foundation executive director; Charlie Rounds, IGLTA Foundation board chair and managing director for Brand g Vacations; Jermain Tjin-A-Koeng from the Republic of Suriname; Teddy Frank from Liberia; Kleber de Oliveira da Silva from Brazil; Kathy Eow from Florida; Aaron Paiva Leyton who runs Peru Magia y Mysterio; and IGLTA President John Tanzella. Photo by Hal Baim