©Clark Massad. Pictured (l to r): Clark Massad, Tobias Holfelt, Alexandra Miller, Giuseppe Giulio. Not pictured: Darrell Schuurmann.

The 8th edition of the East meets West Conference was held in Bratislava, Slovakia on 22 July. Nearly 100 in-person attendees and numerous online participants joined the conference to learn more about the important work of businesses and LGBTQ+ NGOs in Eastern Europe.
This year, for the first time, the conference included a focus on LGBTQ+ travel in Eastern Europe and the socio-economic opportunities that result in welcoming the LGBTQ+ travelers. IGLTA Vice President – Global Partnerships Clark Massad participated in a panel discussion, and was joined by IGLTA members Giuseppe Giulio (Account Executive at Gay.IT, Italy) ; Tobias Holfelt (Founder of SGLCC and CEO at OutPerform LGBT Invest, Sweden) ; and Darrell Schuurmann (CEO, Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Canada). The panel was led by Alexandra Miller (Duhovy Pride, Slovakia) and provided concrete tips and ideas for tourism professionals and destinations wishing to engage with and welcome members of our community.

Hosted at The Spot, a co-working space created by LGBTQ+ owned & operated VacuumLabs, the Opening Session was marked by a Letter of Support from Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová, read and presented to the conference organizers by the President’s Chief of Staff, Metod Špaček.

Highlights aslo included a moving and emotional recounting by Tania Kasian, Communications Manager at FULCRUM, on supporting LGBTQ+ refugees of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Further addressing the issue of LGBTQ+ NGOs in exile were frank discussions from Nick Antipov, Co-founder of MAKEOUT, Belarus ; and Aleksandr Voronov, ED of ComingOut LGBT Group, Russia.

Rounding out the presentations were Javier Leonor, Global Pride Lead at Accenture, Netherlands ; Emre Celik, DEInfluencer & EMEA Employee Relations and Investigations Partner at Google, Germany ; Julia Valsky, Co-founder and CEO of Inclusion Indicator, Austria ; and Ronald Wiesinger, Director and Co-lead EMBRACE at Raiffeisen Bank International, Austria.

Founded by Pavel Subrt and Ludo A.F. Swinnen in 2013 in Vienna, East meets West is a network of LGBTIQ professionals from Western & (primarily) Eastern Europe. East meets West facilitates the exchange of ideas, the sharing of best practices and generates mutual inspiration to improve the social acceptance of LGBTIQ people. The conference will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of its creation in 2023 and plans to continue to incorporate the topic of LGBTQ+ travel into its future programming. Learn more at www.eastmeetswest.eu