With more than 1,350 members in 37 countries, the International Gay
and Lesbian Travel Association has been very busy. Within the past
24 months, the organization appointed its first executive director,
Richard Thompson, hired an outside public relations firm to
increase awareness and added the word "lesbian" to its name.
Travel Weekly contributing writer Mark Chesnut spoke with IGLTA
president John D'Alessandro -- who is also president of Out &
Traveling Representation, a gay travel marketing firm -- about some
developments in the industry.
TW: There's been a lot of talk about the effects of airline
commission cuts and the relationships that connect suppliers,
agents and consumers. Do relationships between agents and suppliers
affect gay and lesbian marketing efforts?
D'Alessandro: It doesn't affect gay and lesbian marketing
efforts any different than any others. The fact is, [agents and
airlines] really do need each other still today. I'm positive that
the American Airlines efforts [toward the gay and lesbian
community, which is targeted at agents as well as directly to gay
and lesbian consumers] does have an effect on the choice the
consumer makes, to the extent the consumer is aware that American
is a gay-friendly airline. They are considered the industry leader
in terms of the gay and lesbian market.
TW: How have IGLTA's tactics changed over the years in terms of
dealing with issues that affect gays and lesbians?
D'Alessandro: In the original days when IGLTA was out there, all
IGLTA could do was boycott an airline that was egregiously against
gays & lesbians. Today, that's changed. We have just about
every airline as a member. Today, there are buycotts [an emphasis
on the positive things that suppliers are doing to attract gay and
lesbian travelers]. The community at large is very astute.
TW: Do you have any predictions for the future of the gay and
lesbian travel market?
D'Alessandro: There will be continued growth on two fronts: The
amount of travel that gays and lesbians do, and the comfort level
that allows them to travel out of the closet.
TW: In January a gay-chartered cruise ship was turned away by
the Cayman Islands government. What does that mean for the gay and
lesbian travel market?
D'Alessandro: I look at this as a perfect reminder that while
we've come a long way, we still have a long way to go. At the end
of the day, people who don't want gay travelers aren't going to get
them. There are too many destinations that are fighting for our
business. We've got destinations like Puerto Vallarta and Costa
Rica. We've got destinations all over the world, like London.
You've got the Dutch Antilles. There are all sorts of fabulous
destinations that are courting us [more] than ever before."