Gay and Lesbian Travel: Questions and Answers

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."

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