The IGLTA team recently met for its annual Staff Retreat and Strategic Planning Session. Coming from more than 10 different countries, this year the IGLTA team was hosted by Disney Destinations at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Amidst the magic, we brainstormed innovative ways to enhance service for our members and partners, expand resources, and champion authentic LGBTQ+ travel experiences, promising exciting updates to come as we navigate towards a more welcoming travel landscape for all.
Looking ahead to 2024, the vibrant city of Osaka, Japan has been selected as the destination for the IGLTA Global Convention, marking IGLTA's first Global Convention in Asia. Osaka has long been at the forefront of promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity, leading Japan in advocating for the incorporation and implementation of protections for LGBTQ+ individuals by businesses and organizations.

Disney Destinations, a proud Platinum-level IGLTA Global Partner since 2017, is deeply committed to celebrating an inclusive and respectful world. They create authentic and unforgettable stories, characters, experiences, and products that capture the imagination of their global audiences. Disney operates under a set of guiding principles known as the Keys, which serve as the foundation for all cast members' decisions to provide exceptional hospitality to guests. Originally, Disney had four Keys: Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency, however in 2019, they introduced a new key that represents the foundation of Disney culture and contributes to its legacy of customer service and care. This new key is Inclusion, and it unlocks even greater potential within the company by amplifying the other four keys, as a result creating a world where everyone belongs and where each person is treated with respect. 

To learn more about the Inclusion key, please click here.

After a magical week, the IGLTA team could not stop talking about the most memorable moments each member experienced at Disney. As a gesture of appreciation, some members wrote notes sharing these experiences, but more importantly, expressing their gratitude to Disney Destinations for hosting us and ensuring that we all had the opportunity to firsthand experience the unique magic of Disney.

The Magic of Disney was truly felt at our annual staff strategic planning retreat. There’s just something special at Walt Disney World Resort that really brings out the goodness and happiness in everyone.  

Like many, I've been visiting Disney since my childhood, and each visit proves to be unforgettable and unique, whether with family, as a couple, alone, with friends, or as in this case, with the entire work team. There's always something new to discover and experience. As I wandered through the park, I was thinking about what makes Disney the most magical and happiest place on Earth. Then I observed the employees, whose excellence in service and courtesy are globally recognized, always treating visitors with so much respect and kindness. I saw children and adults enchanted by the interactions with characters and attractions, focused on the details around the whole area - like our IGLTA group that was eagerly looking for hidden Mickeys. And of course, emotions peaked during the closing shows at Magic Kingdom (Happily Ever After) and at EPCOT (Luminous: The Symphony of Us), which Taylor and Sylvia kindly provided a magical experience for the whole IGLTA staff.

I had an amazing first time at Disney! Everything from the staff, the room decor, and the delicious food was received with such care. I really appreciate how the park staff made it possible for us to create experiences together as a team. (The fireworks were my favorite!) Overall, having everyone gathered in Florida to brainstorm the advancement of inclusive travel, felt extremely empowering. I look forward to planning another visit soon. Thank you all for curating such a magical week for us.

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JOEL DÍAZ (he/him)
This year's staff retreat in Disney was magical, and while the experience was filled with team-building activities and insightful sessions, it was the unexpected thrill of roller coasters that truly took me on an unforgettable ride. I'm not exactly the poster child for roller coaster enthusiasts. In fact, the mere thought of hurtling through twists, turns, and loops has always sent shivers down my spine. However, this retreat was about stepping out of my comfort zone, and I couldn't let my fear hold me back from bonding with my team. Antonella held my hand during the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction, and Renato and Leandro helped me to overcome my fears and encouraged me to ride The Tower of Terror. I am so grateful for that, it was a great opportunity to bond with my wonderful colleagues. Then, as night fell, the magic continued with an awe-inspiring display of fireworks. The sky lit up with colors, and the entire team gathered to watch in wonder. It was indeed my favorite moment, I was hugging my friends Tatyana, Allison and Parth, all of us enjoying the spectacle. During this amazing staff retreat week, we created lasting memories with our amazing team, and this definitely will keep us with energy and joy in our daily work environment.

The Staff Retreat week felt as if Tinker Bell herself sprinkled us with pixie dust and we flew across all the wonders and magical possibilities of Disney World. The team building experiences exceeded our expectations; we watched unbelievable fireworks together; played Guess Up while waiting in line for rides; did a whole Finding Mickeys competition (still looking for them in my dreams); had meetings in a room with Avengers vibes; felt pride knowing more about Inclusion as part of Disney 5 Keys, and even had the team cheering me on and giving me the courage to ride all the attractions I was initially terrified of. When we say we are family, we truly mean it, and it's experiences like these that strengthen that bond. There are no words to express the gratitude we had for our amazing Global Partner Disney Destinations for hosting us and providing everything we need for an unforgettable magical and full of rainbows week. Taylor, Sylvia and Javier, thank you so much!! 

Disney has always been a destination for any Brazilian.  And as I'm Brazilian and gay, I was looking for Disney Pride news and especially the ears with the colors of our Community. Because when a company like Disney "dresses up as Rainbow" and still faces many prejudices, this is reinforced when we talk about Brazil and brings all the possibilities of increasing diversity and inclusion in companies here in the country.  After all, there are many doubts about not committing "pink wash", and Disney has its Pride products for everyone, in its stores and online.  
All of this embraces us and gives us the good feeling of being welcomed, welcomed with respect and love. In the photo my emotion with my "LGBTQIA+ ears 🏳️‍⚧️🏳️‍🌈".

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LOLA RECKLEY (she/her)
My time at Disney was magically amazing! A special thank you to our sponsors for such an awesome experience. Everyone at the hotel, restaurants, and the parks we visited were so nice, friendly, and welcoming. 

I loved Disney's Grand Floridian Hotel for its elegant charm and how close it was to the parks. The hotel's Victorian style and luxurious features made me feel like I was transported to a different time. The VIP visit to Epcot with Taylor was an amazing experience. Riding the new Guardians of the Galaxy experience was so incredible and dining at the lakeside was a peaceful break from the park's hustle. Watching the fireworks light up the sky truly gave that Disney magical experience. 

Reflecting on our recent staff retreat at Walt Disney World, I'm filled with gratitude for the unforgettable (and magical) moments shared with my co-workers and friends. Being able to reconnect in person was so special. One of the most impactful experiences for me was our visit to the LGBTQ+ Center of Orlando and the Pulse Memorial Labyrinth. I vividly remember when the Pulse tragedy occurred and how the echo of it reached all the way to Italy, where we mourned as if we had lost siblings. Visiting the memorial was a moving and emotional experience. I also loved the visit by Experience Kissimmee, Visit Tampa Bay, and Visit Orlando, who openly addressed important topics with transparency and honesty. Their dedication is inspiring! Overall, the retreat was a perfect blend of learning, bonding, and meaningful experiences. I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such a dedicated and passionate team.

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Going back to Walt Disney World Resort is like living a dream again. This place is a magical destination of world-class entertainment with great respect for people and the planet.  A real inclusive space where I could enjoy with my IGLTA family, new and unforgettable experiences like Pandora – The World of Avatar.  I also enjoyed seeing my favorite characters Minnie and Mickey again.  Our stay at the Grand Floridian Resort was fantastic, a property full of details along its corridors, gardens and rooms.  What I liked the most about the resort is that it is just a few steps from Magic Kingdom, which you can reach on foot or by boat.  It was a wonderful stay and I hope to return soon!

My time at Disney World was absolutely unforgettable! Taylor and Sylvia's guided tour was not only informative but also stunning, enriching my experience with fascinating insights. Staying at the Grand Floridian was a dream come true, adding a touch of luxury to the whole adventure. Every moment in the park felt truly magical, from the enchanting attractions to the vibrant atmosphere. Reuniting with the IGLTA team there was a highlight, blending work and pleasure seamlessly as we collaborated and enjoyed each other's company. It was undeniably the time of my life, filled with laughter, joy, and cherished memories.

Disney was a dream come true for me, which I never dreamt of. The biggest highlight of the retreat for me was meeting my beautiful team and falling in love with them. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Disney in itself was a magical experience. It was a delight to see how beautifully inclusivity exists in the DNA of Disney. Another thing that was blissful to experience was how seamless is the use of technology in Disney, everything is so well integrated. I loved my time there!! A huge thank you to Disney Destinations for making it all possible for us.

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From the early morning thrill of conquering Avatar Flight of Passage as one (an experience none of us will forget!), to sharing a magical night under the stars as a team, while the dazzling fireworks illuminated Epcot – these moments, and countless others, were filled with laughter, connection, and the unique magic that Disney brings to everyone. I want to thank Disney Destinations for their hospitality and welcoming spirit which allowed us to create lasting memories that strengthened our team and reinforced our commitment to fostering authentic travel experiences for all. It was truly a week filled with wonder and the power of collaboration, reminding us why we do what we do at IGLTA!

The Magic never ends in the Happiest Place on Earth! Despite what happens outside these walls, I know my IGLTA Family and LGBTQ+ travelers from around the globe will be safe, welcomed, honored and celebrated at Disney. The Disney Pride Collection of hats, pins, ears and clothing made it possible for us to show our true colors and celebrate all the diversity of the Queer Rainbow while we were in the Magic Kingdom. Partners like Disney help us spread that love, diversity and inclusiveness worldwide.

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KATHY ESTES (she/her)
Regardless of how many times I have been to Disney World, the magic of Disney makes it feel like the first time, every time I go. We stayed at the Grand Floridian, which is Victorian themed, beautiful and elegant. The staff provided elevated service that made each visitor feel like they were the only guest. This is one of the resorts that the Monorail is directly connected to, which makes traveling between resorts and theme parks fast and convenient. Our first evening was spent at Epcot, where we rode some of the newest rides, including Guardians of the Galaxy, which is a must, and probably the most fun ride I have ever experienced. We were then treated to dinner during the fireworks show right on the lake. We experienced a new park each night, and ended our week at Downtown Disney for shopping, exploring and dinner. Disney truly has something for everyone at every activity level, at any age. 

LOANN HALDEN (she/her)
From the Grand Floridian with its easy park access, to the VIP viewing of the Epcot fireworks, to the many immersive rides, to the brainstorming shared in the Contemporary boardroom, our strategic staff retreat at Walt Disney World was jam-packed with magical moments. But for me, there is one instant that is forever emblazoned on my heart: seeing Parth explode with joy when he saw Buzz Lightyear "in real life." After countless visits to Disney over the years, it was all new again through the eyes of a young man from India seeing it for the first time -- and also visiting the United States for the first time. That's the power of Disney, creating characters that resonate across cultures and miles to unite us in our shared humanity. That is also why there is such a beautiful alignment between Disney and IGLTA, as our teams are all dedicated to expanding welcoming travel experiences "to infinity and beyond."

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Thanks Disney Destinations for an unforgettable Staff Retreat! 



Don't miss everything we have planned for our 2024 Global Convention in Osaka, registration is now open! Come and join us in the first ever IGLTA Global Convention in Asia, for more information, please click here.

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