By John Tanzella, IGLTA President/CEO,

Undoubtedly these are complicated times. Thanks to the Internet and modern travel, the world’s citizens are more connected than ever. Yet ironically, political and ideological differences are leading to deeper divisions than perhaps any time in human history.


We’re seeing it all across the globe. Civil rights are backsliding, sometimes very prominently. Many locales have passed or have intheir pipelines legislation to restrict gender-transition care, define sex as binary, ban drag shows, and limit education. 


Perhaps most (in)famously, in IGLTA’s home state of Florida, the state government instituted anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Nicknamed “Don’t say gay,” the new law broadly prohibits school instruction on LGBTQ+ subjects. When it passed in 2022, the law applied to classrooms through third grade, but in 2023 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration extended the prohibition through grade 12. In response, the law led to more than 150 major American companies—many of them travel and hospitality companies—vocalizing their opposition to the Florida law. 


Meanwhile, other countries are seeing extreme right-wing officials take office, threatening or rewinding social progress. In some nations, same-sex relationships are criminalized, and gender-diverse members of our community face new forms of persecution. 


It’s easy to feel discouraged right now. But there is hope. And IGLTA’s work is positively contributing to the light shining through the darkest moments. That’s because our association and our IGLTA Foundation invests in understanding, acceptance, and connection. 


For 40 years, IGLTA has brought together like-minded companies globally, building a network of partners, members, and allies that in return builds strong businesses. Our community fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) that helps open dialogue and opportunities. This approach works for any size company, whether it’s a micro business in a small town, or a global corporation. The common thread is simple: connection.


Among IGLTA’s network of 12,500+ travel professionals across 80 countries are a committed group of global partners, whose year-round support for the association are integral to our work advancing LGBTQ+ tourism. 


At the top of that list are our Platinum-level Global Partners, sixcompanies each exemplifying inclusive, forward-thinking corporate values: Accor, American Express, Delta Air Lines, Disney Destinations, Hilton, and Marriott International.


IGLTA’s most longstanding and loyal Platinum Global Partner is Delta Air Lines, which joined the IGLTA partnership program in 2006 and is a founding sponsor of our charitable IGLTA Foundation. Hilton and Marriott each joined as global partners in 2010, hosting many IGLTA events and conventions, alongside Accor, global partner since 2021. American Express became a global partner in 2022, and immediately began sponsoring the IGLTA Honors, which celebrate the individuals and organizations improving the LGBTQ+ tourism landscape globally. And since 2017, Disney Destinations also has been a Global Partner at the highest level, providing the IGLTA team with leadership and quality service training and hosting our staff retreat along the way.


The caliber of leadership behind each of our global partners and indeed, all IGLTA partners and members, shows that courage is progress. These leaders know that when communities create spaces where everyone feels welcome, business thrives—whether that’s in the U.S. or Brazil, IGLTA’s two largest membership countries, or in smaller or more conservative nations. 


There’s so much to consider in balancing today’s business environment, social principles, and the overall travel industry. So I’m especially eager for the IGLTA Global Convention, 4-7 October 2023 in Puerto Rico, a destination proudly welcoming LGBTQ+ travelers in the Caribbean. There we’ll share ideas aboutthe future of LGBTQ+ travel, and the ways that DEI benefits the tourism industry at all levels and every scale. 


We’ll be marking IGLTA’s 40th anniversary at this convention. It’s incredible to think about the tremendous LGBTQ+ progress that’s been made since 1983 across so many countries, some of it sparked by inclusive, forward-thinking global business leaders. Still, even skeptics may be surprised by the boldness of regressive forces at work today. 


But while some seem committed to rewinding civil rights at any cost, we are reminded that our work is more important than ever. Our wake-up alarm is ringing, once again. And just as IGLTA’s core values are unwavering, our global network continues to lead the way to a more boldly inclusive world. It can never be understated: Together we rise.