U.S. Travel chief laments boycotts

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NYC & Company CEO Fred Dixon (left) with U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow at the IGLTA convention.
NYC & Company CEO Fred Dixon (left) with U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow at the IGLTA convention. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

NEW YORK -- Boycotting travel to destinations based on policies or practices is effective in sending a message, but boycotts are detrimental to the local economy and workers, U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said.

Dow spoke onstage at the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) Annual Global Convention at the Hilton Midtown here, in a fireside chat with NYC & Company president and CEO Fred Dixon.

"People look for leverage no matter what the issue might be," Dow said.

It's happened in the U.S., like in North Carolina in 2016 when the state enacted a law requiring transgender individuals to use bathrooms that correspond to their birth sex. Other state governments and corporations pressured the state to repeal the law. New York and California responded with a North Carolina travel ban for their state employees. Companies canceled business events in the state. 

The law was repealed in 2017 under Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Dow said people use the travel industry to send a message, and while their message may be well-intended, they're putting people out of work. And in many cases, Dow said, they are the people who need the work, like housekeepers, bellmen, waiters and waitresses.

Boycotts are "unfortunately" effective, Dow said. A US Travel study found that 77% of meeting planners said boycotts make no difference in their decisions of where to hold events, but 16% said they would choose to go somewhere else. "That's big money," Dowd said.

He called on people to work to solve the problem, saying, "We can't be the easy prey for anyone with a cause."

IGLTA doesn't support boycotts. When Bermuda banned same-sex marriage last year (a law later struck down by Bermuda's Supreme Court), IGLTA president John Tanzella said "boycotts never help solve problems. Our position is always more to try and work with the tourism office and the government to change policies."

At the IGLTA event, Dow addressed the importance of the LGBTQ community to travel, calling it a "phenomenally important market."

LGBTQ travelers not only make up a significant portion of travelers, but they also have a propensity to spend a lot on travel.

"It is huge, and that's a big opportunity," Dow said.

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