Discovery is an integral part of what we do at the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. True, our association serves diverse purposes, but we are foremost a business organization. As such, IGLTA benefits its members most by learning about them and their needs. As our members evolve, IGLTA evolves.
At our Annual Global Convention next week in Toronto, we’re taking a new step in our evolution with the IGLTA Foundation’s inaugural Discovery session.
For those who are unfamiliar, the non-profit Foundation plays a vital role in IGLTA’s overall mission to be a resource and to enhance LGBTQ+ tourism globally. Through education, research and leadership, the Foundation helps promote local businesses, communicate with government officials and tourism bureaus, and support industry professionals. The Foundation hosts fundraisers that allow us to partner with international NGOs, fund research and award scholarships.
The Foundation’s newest initiative focuses on business needs in emerging and unique destinations. While we’ve always prioritized support for members who accommodate and market to LGBTQ+ travelers, we know that there are special challenges in destinations that lack governmental aid—or, worse, where businesses are actively discriminated against for serving LGBTQ+ hospitality needs.
At this year’s convention, we’re making a concerted effort to hear about entrepreneurial obstacles that IGLTA members face in challenging environments, including countries where homosexuality is illegal. That’s the reason our Foundation is hosting its first Discovery series gathering.
Through direct invitation only, a small group of IGLTA members will gather for an open discussion about operating LGBTQ-friendly businesses in countries in Asia, Africa, and parts of the Caribbean and South America.
Esteemed Foundation Board member Tanya Churchmuch will guide the private conversation, and Fabrice Houdart, Human Rights Officer, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, will provide introductory remarks. (Fabrice also is moderating a convention panel on 11 May on “The Intersection of Human Rights and Tourism.”)
Tanya aims to facilitate an honest, constructive and frank exchange with the small group of meeting participants. Her initial questions already were sent out as a survey to potential attendees. That feedback will add depth and insights to the Discovery session, and, we hope, lead to action items for the Foundation and for IGLTA overall.
Some of the topics may be sensitive, and surely many will be personal. The session will be a safe space to shed light on issues that entrepreneurs, tour guides and local officials endure regularly in their hometowns. It’s a chance for IGLTA members to relate to each other’s challenges, and to learn about difficulties, discrimination, safety, and even non-LGBTQ+ hurdles that our friends are facing the world over.
This is the first in what we plan to be an ongoing initiative for the IGLTA Foundation. We want to open the discussion in Toronto and continue it at future conventions (our own and potentially at ITB Berlin in March 2019). Because the best part of what we do is enlighten, and that begins with Discovery.