The European Travel Commission (ETC) united with the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and the Flemish tourist board VISITFLANDERS to present the Educational Forum on LGBTQ Tourism at the Hilton Brussels Grand Place on 21 June. The event provided a preview of key findings from The Handbook on LGBTQ Tourism in Europe, scheduled for release next month as a joint research project from ETC and the IGLTA Foundation. Forum speakers also addressed ways to make Europe safer and more inclusive for LGBTQ travelers, shared best practices for reaching the diverse segments of this market, and discussed the future evolution of LGBTQ tourism in Europe.
“We are proud to be a partner of ETC’s first event and publication on the LGBTQ travel market and to engage many of our European members in this important discussion,” said IGLTA President/CEO John Tanzella, who delivered opening remarks at the forum along with VISITFLANDERS CEO & ETC President Peter De Wilde. “While Europe is a global leader for the LGBTQ market segment, not every country is equal in its LGBTQ inclusiveness—and the research clearly showed that inclusive destinations have the best opportunity to attract diverse visitors.”
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Handbook author Peter Jordan presented the first look at this soon-to-be-released research, which focuses on perceptions of 35 states within Europe from LGBTQ travelers in five long-haul markets: Russia, China, Japan, Brazil and the United States. An open-minded culture topped the list of reasons for travelers to select a destination and LGBTQ events were the leading choice for their next visit.
“More tolerance, respect and understanding are the basic principles of Europe to become the ultimate inclusive tourism destination worldwide,” said ETC Executive Director Eduardo Santander. “We are very proud to see from the results of the study and the discussions today that Europe is seen as a highly desirable travel destination for the LGBTQ segment. But we know that we should not be complacent as there is still room for improvement. ETC remains committed to this goal, and events like the Educational Forum are a step in the right direction.”
Forum speakers also included Thomas Bachinger, Vienna Tourist Board; Mattej Valencic, Luxury Slovenia; Mateo Asensio, Turisme de Barcelona; Anna Shepherd, ILGA Europe; Patrick Bontinck, visit.brussels; Kaspars Zalitis, Baltic Pride; and Sean Howell of Hornet.
“We want to have Flanders evolving towards a society in which sexual orientation will never be a question nor issue,” said De Wilde, who also moderated a panel discussion on communicating diversity to the industry and travelers with journalists from DIVA in the UK, blu media group in Germany and Out & About in Denmark. “On the contrary, we want the LGBTQ traveler to be treated with integrity and respect. VISITFLANDERS will continue to break down barriers and will focus on promoting inclusive tourism. We like to use our strongest assets towards these goals like our gastronomy, our Flemish Masters and our cycling culture. All topics that might trigger and inspire LGBTQ travelers from the entire globe to visit Flanders.”