This spring, Toronto will welcome the world as hundreds of representatives from the international LGBT travel sector attend the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association’s 35th annual global convention.
The 2018 edition of the convention will take place May 9-12 at the Westin Harbour Castle, with approximately 500 buyers and suppliers anticipated this year. During a pre-convention networking event this week at Toronto’s Bisha Hotel, LoAnn Halden, the IGLTA’s vice-president of communications, spoke to PAX about what attendees can expect at this year’s convention, as well as the state of the LGBT travel market in Canada and beyond.
“We’re really happy to be back in Toronto,” Halden said. “The city has been an amazing partner to IGLTA (and) at a time when many parts of the world don’t seem so friendly, it’s great to see destinations which support diversity and inclusion.”
According to Halden, the convention puts an emphasis on direct networking over the traditional tradeshow format with a buyer/supplier marketplace during the first day of the event. Another key components include numerous education sessions both breakout and from the convention’s mainstage; a small business roundtable; a women-in-business forum; and a media trade show where attendees get to network with both local and international media. In addition, the convention’s annual CEO panel will tackle the issues of sustainability, Halden said.
Among this year’s keynote speakers is Fabrice Houdart, Human Rights Officer at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York.
“The one thing we are not is ‘come in and walk around a bunch of booths,’” Halden explained. “We’re known for our networking so there’s a lot of opportunities for that. It’s not a mass quantity of people, but quality people within the LGBT tourism sector. We have representation from more than 30 countries, so it’s a very diverse mix globally of tourism professionals.”
Describing Canada’s appeal as an LGBT travel market as “incredibly strong” Halden added that an uptick in attendance is expected at this year’s convention noting the political climate in the U.S. following the 2016 presidential election.
“I would categorize Canada as one of the most welcoming countries in the world right now. In fact, given the timing of our last convention in the U.S., following the 2016 election, we definitely had members from Latin countries that were nervous about coming through U.S. immigration. We feel they’ll be much more relaxed about coming to Canada.”
And for travel agents looking to familiarize themselves with the LGBT sector, Halden offered the following advice.
“Do your homework - read LGBT publications and get to know organizations in your own community,” Halden told PAX. “The main thing is that it can’t just be financially motivated; there has to be a desire for social responsibility. It’s very important to get engaged with people in your local community rather than just say ‘I want to go after this market.’”
For more information or to register, visit www.iglta.org/convention.