FLORIDA’S COASTAL CITY of St. Petersburg was the setting for a lively discussion of LGBTQ travel trends in May during the annual convention of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.
The gathering attracted dozens of buyers, suppliers and tourism insiders from around the globe for three days of networking and education. A variety of trending topics were at the forefront, according to John Tanzella, president and CEO, IGLTA. “Crisis management, as it pertains to the tourism industry, is a leading topic, which encompasses everything from global terrorism to anti-LGBTQ laws,” he said, adding that the new U.S. administration’s impact on inbound tourism is also a hot topic for IGLTA members.
This year’s event attracted big-name speakers from the travel industry, including Roger Dow, president and CEO, U.S. Travel Association, and George Kalogridis, president, Walt Disney World Resort. Tourism officials from Guam to Monaco were also present, and a buyer/supplier marketplace provided an opportunity for attendees to make new contacts. The host hotel was The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, and the gala opening night reception took place at The Dalí Museum and the Mahaffey Theater.
The convention also gave St. Petersburg/Clearwater a chance to show off its gay-friendly vibe, with outings to enjoy local nightlife, shopping and dining, as well as information about the annual St. Pete Pride Fest, an LGBTQ pride event that takes place in June. Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, the destination’s tourism organization, maintains a robust LGBTQ travel section on its website.
The annual event was also a time to reflect on the organization’s evolution in the 21st century. “IGLTA has expanded its reach on all fronts: We have members in more countries and in more unexpected destinations,” said Tanzella. “Our scope has moved beyond the original business-to-business model to include consumer outreach. We also have greatly increased our engagement with mainstream brands and organizations and have created the IGLTA Foundation to do more for our members while simultaneously giving back to the LGBT community worldwide.”
Tanzella said IGLTA members have changed the way they approach the LGBTQ market in recent years. “There has been a move away from one-size-fits-all marketing to recognizing the great diversity in tastes and traveler types within our LGBTQ community,” he explained. “Rather than just ‘gay travel,’ we see companies doing LGBTQ tourism outreach that focuses on luxury, weddings, families, adventure, millennials or the transgender market, to name just a few.”
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