By John Tanzella, IGLTA President/CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s a question I hear often: Can boycotting a destination help make positive change for the LGBTQ+ community? The plain answer is that IGLTA does not support boycotts. But there is more to learn from that question because behind it is an instinct to balance solidarity and advocacy.
As a B2B tourism association, IGLTA works with members all over the world—currently in about 80 countries. Our members include a wide range of businesses from national, regional, and local tourism bureaus to corporate partners operating a variety of different businesses and properties to LGBTQ+-owned tour operators, travel agencies and guesthouses. Some of them are in openly LGBTQ+ welcoming locales, while others may be in more conservative places with restrictive laws and customs.
We recognize that being able to travel is a privilege, and it's also a very personal choice how to decide where to go. IGLTA would never discourage someone from exploring. But we do believe that it’s always best practice to be an informed traveler who understands a destination’s laws and culture when planning a trip. (The U.S. State Department’s current travel advisories and e-newsletter, ILGA World – the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, and IGLTA’s travel guides are all great resources for initial travel planning.)
It’s also vital to acknowledge that the laws of a country, state, or city are not reflective of its entire population. Members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community reside everywhere, so travelers who avoid trips to a conservative destination may only worsen the local community’s isolation. Travel boycotts can’t be the right answer for social or policy changes, because they only serve to further disenfranchise those who are already getting left behind due to racism, economics, or identity.
Meanwhile, destinations that are home to active, welcoming communities also sometimes suffer anti-LGBTQ+ incidents. Yet that would not likely deter travelers from visiting a place known to have a vibrant queer population. In some cases, LGBTQ+ travelers may even wish to visit an area that’s suffered malice out of sheer moral support and visible solidarity.
Here at IGLTA, we absolutely believe that in the big picture, tourism is a force for social good. In countries with challenging laws, we’ve seen how our LGBTQ+-owned and -allied member businesses and partners help move the needle for the greater community through awareness, education, and economics. The IGLTA Foundation Emerging Destinations Program has worked with small businesses in Indonesia, Venezuela and Madagascar recently.
IGLTA always stands with those advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). On an everyday level, we believe that travel sparks progress by keeping doors open for an individual connection. It creates opportunities for dialogue between people, and over time promotes institutional shifts. A travel boycott may call attention to a nation’s or state’s restrictive laws and policies, but it probably does more long-term harm than good.
We will continue to amplify the efforts of the destinations, businesses, and individuals that promote inclusion no matter where in the world they are located. Above all, the tourism industry must keep advocating for DEI globally, creating more visibility for these issues—and our LGBTQ+ community—across all continents.