A few days ago, we sat down with our friend Alessio Virgili (he/him) at BIT Milano. Alessio has been a significant contributor to the LGBTQ+ travel scene in Italy, playing a vital role in bringing the IGLTA Global Convention to Milan in 2022. During our conversation, we discussed Alessio's journey, from founding Italy's first LGBTQ+ tour operator to his ambassadorial role with IGLTA. Finally, we explored the impact of the convention on Milan's tourism landscape and Alessio's insights into the post-2022 developments.

Alessio Virgili

About Alessio Virgili (he/him)

Alessio Virgili is an entrepreneur with 20 years of experience as a speaker, trainer, and opinion leader on LGBTQ+ tourism and marketing. He is the CEO of Sonders and Beach, a group of companies operating in the tourism industry with a focus on sustainability since 2002, based in Italy and the United States. He founded his business with his lifelong partner, Andrea Cosimi. Amongst his many activities to promote LGBTQ+ tourism, he founded the Italian LGBTQ+ Tourism Association (AITGL) in 2009 with TTG Italia Travel Fair, US Airways, San Francisco Travel, Massachusetts Tourism Board, and Philadelphia CVB. In 2010 he became IGLTA Global Ambassador for Italy. In 2011 he founded Expo Gay Tourism, the first trade show in Italy dedicated to LGBTQ+ tourism, at NoFrills in Bergamo. His work has been endless since then, including his successful promotion of Milan as the location for IGLTA’s Global Convention in collaboration with the Milan Municipality, ENIT (Italian Tourism Board) and with the endorsement of the American Consulate in Milan. He also is currently the Chair of AITGL’s board.

Ciao Alessio, can you tell us about your connection with LGBTQ+ tourism? 

I became involved in LGBTQ+ tourism in 2003, so many years ago. I founded Italy’s first LGBTQ+ tour operator with Andrea. At that time, we were planning a vacation for ourselves but were not openly out yet. We were looking for a destination that was LGBTQ+ friendly, but struggled to find information on the internet. This inspired us to open a tour operator, and here we are, today, after twenty years! 

What’s your connection with IGLTA?

I got to know IGLTA in 2009, and then in 2010 I was appointed as an ambassador for the organization in Italy. From the very beginning, I focused on finding a destination in Italy to host the convention, as this was my goal from day one. It took me 10 years, in fact we only managed to organize the IGLTA Convention in 2022. It was supposed to be in 2020, but then there was the pandemic. It was unfortunate at the time, but it was a fantastic event, and I’m grateful to IGLTA, who understood the specificities of Italy, which is a context quite different from others. Finally, thanks to the LGBTQ+ community, both business-oriented and otherwise, that supported this event.


Have you noticed any changes since the IGLTA convention in Milan?

The convention generated a lot of excitement in the tourism market and the city has been involved in various activities since. Prior to Christmas, I had a meeting with the city's tourism councilor, who expressed interest in pursuing new initiatives and training programs for the city, to demonstrate that the convention was not just a one-time event, but something worth investing in for the long term. However, it’s true that this is a challenging time for our country, and things aren’t straightforward. There are signs pointing in opposite directions.  But I must say I’m optimistic, I want to be optimistic.