The meetings industry continues to diversify its programming to accommodate a more diverse audience.
In this Shakedown, we chat with John Tanzella, president and CEO of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), about LGBT tourism and what considerations meeting planners should make when planning LGBT meetings.
What would you say are the biggest considerations for meeting planners in regard to LGBT tourism?
We recommend that meeting planners speak directly to potential host hotels about their experiences with LGBT groups and the diversity training their staff has had in order to ensure a high comfort level for attendees. For example, no gay couple wants to be asked at the front desk if they want two beds or to receive a welcome note addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Also, the concierge should be able to recommend LGBT or other welcoming places to these delegates. Meeting planners should also speak to the CVB about local acceptance of LGBT visitors. If there are issues or concerns, address those well ahead of the delegates arriving.
Have you been to an event where the LGBT community was obviously not considered, and how could that have been better managed?
It’s typically a matter of language: speakers who address a crowd with an assumption of heterosexuality for the entire audience. It’s very simple to adjust speech to be gender and orientation neutral.
Are there specific event tactics that you’ve witnessed or incorporated into your own events that help accommodate the LGBT community?
We always engage the local LGBT community of our convention host cities in the planning process to ensure we highlight the area venues and events that our attendees would enjoy. Travel is all about experiences.
Are there specific destinations that the IGLTA has chosen to meet in because of their attitude toward the LGBT community?
Our annual global conventions have many criteria involved in the selection process, including LGBT engagement of the bidding CVB, airlift and certainly the attitude of the destination toward hosting. We have featured emerging LGBT destinations such as Florianopolis, Brazil, and mainstay LGBT destinations like Los Angeles. Our next convention is May 3-6, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Fla., which is home to a large LGBT community and has a long history of LGBT and IGLTA engagement from the CVB, Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.
How do you think the meetings industry as a whole could improve in accommodating the LGBT community?
Many conferences promote after-hours options in the location. One simple item is including a list of LGBT-friendly options in the delegate handouts. A list of relevant restaurants, bars or events is usually easily obtained from the CVB—and if the CVB isn’t aware of this information, that’s a red flag. It’s also empowering when we as LGBT people see ourselves on stage. That doesn’t mean the subject matter has to be LGBT, but IGLTA staff recently attended a conference where a female speaker made a passing reference to her longtime same-sex partner during a keynote. Inclusiveness goes a long way.