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International LGBT travel confab in Chicago
by Kate Sosin and Tracy Baim
2013-05-05

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Celebrating its 30th year, the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) convention was held in Chicago May 1-4.

Hundreds of delegates from more than 20 countries attended workshops, celebratory events and expos at the Hyatt and Center on Halsted.

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.

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, and Jack Markey, African Division Chief, American Citizen Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State also addressed the press conference.

The 2013 IGLTA Building Bridges Scholarship recipients were:

— Student: Kathy Eow is studying hospitality and tourism management at Florida International University.

— Student: Teddy Frank made his first visit to the U.S. 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 was 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 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 country—he sees the connections made through travel as particularly beneficial to their goals.

IGLTA opened this year's convention with a commitment to ending child trafficking and prostitution. 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.

At the Field Museum, David Scowsill, president/CEO of World Travel & Tourism Council, gave a keynote speech. Sessions included those ones led by Google's Brandon Feldman, TripAdvisor, Professional Association of Innkeepers International and the U.S. Department of State. (See upcoming issues of Windy City Times for more detailed coverage of several workshops.)

IGLTA volunteers spent part of their last day volunteering for community projects at Nettelhorst School, Greater Chicago Food Depository and the Chicago Park District.

This year's conference honored Center on Halsted with the IGLTA Community Award. Center Executive Director Modesto "Tico" Valle accepted on behalf of the Center. Other honorees included Manuela Kay, co-owner of several German LGBT media, including Siegessaule and L.Mag.

See www.iglta.org . See many more photos from IGLTA's conference and the gay expo online.

There were a few picketers outside of the Hyatt during parts of the conference. They handed out orange flyers protesting the Hyatt's treatment of workers and called on IGLTA members and LGBTQAs in general to stand with the global boycott of the company.

Main 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


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