Welcome to Insider Out Travel, a blog about LGBT travel written by LGBT tourism professionals. Travel the globe and gain insight into the tourism industry (with a gay twist), brought to you by the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

IGLTA Symposium Florianopolis March 26th to 28th

By Roy Heale
Sunshine, expansive beaches, delicious seafood, sizzling nightlife and warm hospitality greeted the forty-two delegates at the recent IGLTA Symposium in Florionopolis, Brazil. The attendees traveled from Australia, Canada, the United States, Peru, Argentina and Brazil to spend four days networking together, meeting the local GLBT business community, and learning about the vacation opportunities on the Santa Catarina Island of Florionopolis. The sun shone every day and naturally the Island's approximate 100 beaches were the main focus of attention and enjoyment.
The first day began with a one hour hike into Naufragados Beach which is only accessible by boat or hiking. The rewards at the end of this hike were a spectacular beach, a small fishing village, cafe, and a leisurely swim. Some of us were grateful that we took a boat ride back to where our bus was waiting for us. This was just one of many spectacular white sandy beaches that we visited during our stay. Our tours also included the beach at Praia Mole---the gayest meeting point on the island during summer months---where we enjoyed caipirinhas courtesy of Bar de Deca on the gay beach. The local media showed up to see how we were enjoying our visit.
In the heart of the Old City we visited the old customs house, the fish market, boutiques, shops and the local historic points of interest.
A taxi boat ride took us to the small fishing village of Costa da Lagoa for a seafood lunch at Sabor da Costa Restaurant where we feasted on the catch of the day and a spectacular view.
The Saturday Marketplace with about thirty exhibitors was attended by approximately 200 travel industry visitors from South America and the local media. For three hours the networking was intense and many new contacts were established for future business opportunities. This was followed by the two hour VI International LGBT Forum where important issues for the future of LGBT Tourism were discussed including a presentation by Tom Nibbio from IGLTA head office.
The final day included a visit to Jurere Internacional Beach and the farewell lunch at Cafe de la Musique. Here there was a surprise performance by the Boi de Mamoa performing a local folklore story acted out by children from the island. This troupe of performers are organized by two gay men.
At the end of four days learning about this vacation paradise of Brazil and the local nightlife--- which only seems to begin after midnight---the delegates were unanimous in their gratitude to the organizers for their efforts to make this a successful symposium. Many of us vowed to return for an extended visit as soon as possible.
Obrigado to all the organizers and sponsors for a job well done and the warm welcome to all delegates!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Toronto Travel Agent was First (Woman) President of IGTA 25 Years Ago

The fledgling International Gay Travel Association held it's first annual convention in San Francisco - six months after founding in Ft. Lauderdale, not far from the current World IGLTA HQ.

There were two women on the interim board, including Isabel Smythe of Chat Travel in Toronto, who was elected President in 1986 through the second annual convention held in San Juan, PR.

As the second woman in that group, I think it would be fitting to honor Isabel at the 26th annual convention in Toronto this May. Problem is, we can't find her!

Calling all Canadian members and early members of IGTA who might still be in contact with her, albeit CHAT Travel has not existed for many years. She may not even be in the travel industry any more. But she would enliven the conclave with memories of how a travel agent from Canada helped form the association that has grown beyond her wildest vision.

Isabel Smythe/Smyth where are you? If anyone has a lead, please contact Dee Farrell, dee@rainbowtourism.com, 646.344.2655 (Florida).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The End of the Week

"The Busiest Stand in the Discover America Pavilion" - That's how our neighbors have described our presence at ITB this year. We were so thrilled to be so busy amongst all those famous world destinations. All our six members who took advantage of booth sharing were positively surprised with the exposure they've had and with the new contacts they have made.
The nicest part however, was to see all the many friends and members that we have here in Germany and throughout the world once again. As the IGLTA grows, the amount of friendly faces multiplies as well.
As you can see from the photo above, we were constantly busy and together with our booth-sharers, we created new opportunities to do business.
Next year we will have to get a much larger booth to be able to accommodate better all the many visitors and members.

ITB Our Party

Thursday evening marked a new era for IGLTA in Germany. We have announced our new Ambassador for Germany, Edwin Seth Brown, during a cocktail reception at the brand new Axel Hotel Berlin. Edwin has a flat in Berlin and is currently building a new home in Cologne. He spends most of the year traveling between the US (Los Angeles) where his business is and Germany, where his heart is.
We're all very excited in having Edwin join our team of Ambassadors and we are confident our members in Germany will extend him a warm welcome and will take advantage of all his marketing skills to promote our German members to the world and the world to our German members.
The cocktail reception was a huge success. Sarah Niehues, Axel Berlin's Sales and Marketing Manager took our guests on a tour around the beautiful hotel.
On the photo above, from left to right, Carlos Kytka IGLTA European Ambassador, Robert Gorree GM Axel Hotel Berlin, Nicolas Winjnants Brand Manager Axel Hotels, Edwin Seth Brown IGLTA Ambassador to Germany, Ralf Ostendorf, Head of Sales Promotion Berlin Tourism and Tom Nibbio IGLTA Global Ambassador.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

ITB Berlin 2009

March 11th was a very special day for the IGLTA. For the first time we have hosted our own ITB booth. The most important travel trade show in the world, ITB is the place to meet the who's who in the travel industry.
It has been a quite busy week for Tom Nibbio and myself since we arrived in Berlin at the beginning of the week. We are staying at the brand new Axel Hotel (photo right), the latest addition to the Catalonian hotel chain, owned by Juan Julia. We were warmly welcomed by Nicolas, the chain Brand Manager and for the whole hotel staff. The rooms are trendy and offer all the facilities the international gay & lesbian traveler expects from a 5 star hotel. A very nice spa centre with gym, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi. It's restaurant and bar will certainly catch the attention of the Berliners and have all to become the place to socialize.

We started the preparations to ITB with a meeting with Nicolas and Edwin, our new German Ambassador to finalize all the details of our presence and fine tune our appointments. We will be hosting a small cocktail party here at the Axel on tonight, Thursday, to introduce our German Ambassador to our members and to show them around the hotel.

Well, so there we went on Tuesday to the huge fair grounds to check our stand and meet some of our members who were booth-sharing with us. The whole ITB area looked like a construction site and there were hundreds of people still building and decorating their booths... an we joined them with all the adrenaline and excitement on first-timers - In addition we took over thousand collaterals sent by our members who were participating in our brochure distribution . At the end of the day we were shattered made our way back to relax at the Jacuzzi and "cool down" in the sauna.

Wednesday, after an invigorating and healthy breakfast buffet at Axel, we made our way back to ITB and it was like no construction had ever happened. The huge fair grounds were perfectly clean and tidy and all the brand new booths shining and smelling like a new car.Add Image

We are located in the Hall 2.1, stand 247, at the Discovery America Pavilion. The staff there was again so helpful and friendly, accommodating all our wishes with a big smile. All our booth-sharing members we also thrilled to be part of the pioneering event and you will be glad to know that the IGLTA booth was one of the busiest booths in the huge Discovery America Pavilion. 

We had people from all branches of the tourism industry come and visit us and our members. We made many new friends and recruited many new members. After eight hours talking and hosting we let our hair down at the newly decorated Hotel Berlin Berlin, where we again welcomed all our members and friends in Berlin for our annual ITB party, organized by our board member Tom Boemkes. The hotel looks completely new and its large function facilities were a perfect background for our party. Greater Fort Lauderdale's CVB brought two stunning male models to welcome our guests and after the music, wine and good food did the rest to make sure that again, it was one of the highlights of the ITB and of the IGLTA worldwide calendar of events.

I am just about to have my vitamin breakfast again head back to the fairgrounds with Tom and again make our presence be seen and heard at this amazing event....
I will keep you posted, so watch this space!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Gay Travelocity Gnome Comes Out in 2009

I travel a whole lot, and when I do it's good to know that I'm working with an experienced, LGBT friendly company. That's why I wanted to take this time to introduce you all to oh-so-supportive Travelocity Gnome and his Coming Out for 2009!

Travelocity has been a strong advocate of the gay & lesbian community for several years now... they simply decided it was time to "step it up" a notch. I couldn't be more excited that my favorite tourism industry mascot is wearing the proud colors of our community.
On this blog, and their accompanying Facebook Group, Twitter page and more, I will definitely be following this gnome to stay on top of not only some of the hot, new gay travel packages Travelocity is offering daily, but also the events and adventures of the GLBT Travelocity team as they circle the globe promoting their company and meeting-and-greeting you all in various GLBT travel expos, conferences and conventions around the world.
So be sure to check out their new blog at:
... as well as their new Facebook Group and Facebook Fan Page, found at:
... and lastly, their new Twitter page, found at:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Where were the women?

As a single, senior-ish lesbian, I could find no other similar chicks to enjoy the events of The Winter Party Festival.

There were the usual number of fag hags there with their gay guy friends, a handful of young lesbian couples, and I think I even saw some lipstick lesbians. But where were the non-dancing, non partyers who wanted to walk the beaches, meet for a glass of wine, go off on a scooter together?

Locals told me to try again for the Aqua Girl, the all-woman event of South Florida. A pity that the Task Force, headed by a woman, was not able to rustle up the 5000 women they needed to make this a truly LGBT community event.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Winter Party 2009

This past weekend was 2009's Winter Party in Miami. IGLTA is a sponsor of the event so I went in support of the festival and of the organizers, the US' National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. The event seemed to be a huge success and I had a great time. Throughout the weekend there were events and parties at venues all across the city and everybody seemed to come alive with the festive vibe in the air.

By far, the ultimate experience is the Beach Party that happens each year on Sunday. Thousands of gay men (and a few lesbians) get together to just dance the day away on the sands of Miami Beach. A few friends joined me along with my friends from the IGLTA Board, Cordey Lash and George Carrancho of American Airlines. Parties come and go throughout the year, but we all agreed that Winter Party was one of the top events.

I'm looking forward to having IGLTA Sponsor the event again next year. Until then, Miami Beach's beach will just look a little bare.

The Pink Banana @ Telluride Gay Ski Week

It's been a long time since I've had such a good time on the slopes with a few hundred of my new favorite ski buddies!

I arrived in Telluride on a Saturday, February 21st, just as the Telluride Gay Ski Week was beginning. Flying in direct from LA made it all that much smoother, and after a relaxing evening of getting settled in, I was ready to shred the slopes on Sunday.... and shred I did, from the sunny early morning slopes to the still sunny late afternoon runs. I couldn't believe it... the weather was absolutely gorgeous at 10,000' elevation.

But as they say, no rest for the wicked, and that's the way this week began... as Sunday night was Oscar night, the folks hosting the Telluride Gay Ski Week spared no expense in making sure that everyone there had a great time. With the Oscar party pre-show at the Apres Ski Logo Lounge to the Oscar Ball shortly thereafter, everyone arriving early to Telluride had a great time celebrating Dustin Lance Black's presentation speech for Milk together.

And this is the way the entire week went... ski by day and party by night. On Tuesday night, the first blowout party was held at Tommy's. Everyone was there, including the star of the night, Reichen Lemkuhl, debuting his Fly Naked line of jewelry. Most of us stayed until 2 am, dancing the night away. The hosts of this week also ensured that there was plenty to do during moments of downtime, including recommended restaurants in town for all of us to enjoy, as well as a special Spa Day for that necessary day off of relaxation from the slopes.

Thursday skiing was fun, as there was a very entertaining "Drag Race," with the winner strutting the finest ski drag costume I've seen in years... Miss Harlot O'Scara! Thursday night was the biggest party, by far, however... the legendary White Nights party with the Perry Twins Doug and Derek Perry spinning and getting the entire crowd going strong. This party was a packed house, with locals arriving and mixing with all of us out-of-towners, straight and gay alike.

Of course, like troopers, we were all ready to ski again, and that's the way this entire week went, until by Saturday we were all wiped out but grinning ear-to-ear with big smiles on our faces from having had such a great time and meeting such wonderful people. And Telluride, true to form, made sure we left with a bang... with their annual Telluride AIDS Benefit Fashion Show. I don't think I ever saw a fashion show like this... it was the New York chic of Ugly Betty meets some of the most whacked out looks and styles from the edges of Berlin... and all on display for us in the mountains of Colorado!

And that's how I'd like to wrap up this summary of Telluride Gay Ski Week... the people. I met some of the best people on this trip, and made true lifelong friends along the way. There were so many different "scenes" to remember... like when the timid straight man with his girlfriend and her best friend all meekly came into the Apres Ski Lounge not knowing what to expect. By the time they left, they were all posing for photos, sitting on our laps and having a fantastic evening. That's the way the entire week went, and as the crowd changed day by day with some folks arriving early and others a bit later in the week, the mix of people just got better and better. There was no one type of guy or girl there, either... it was a very healthy mix of some very cool lesbian skiiers... some hot, young skiiers... some older, muscular bear skiiers... and the rest of us in between!

I can't wait to return next year!
Thanks again to Scott Barretto and John McGill of StraightOut Media & Marketing for putting on such a wonderful event!