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.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Antwerp Pride

(This is the article only - see previous post for pictures.)

The last four days in Antwerp were amazing. The work hard-play hard mentality is strong amongst myself and my colleagues and it's great. Thursday and Friday were IGLTA Board Meetings and Convention Planning Meetings and they went so well. Both IGLTA's future and our 2010 Convention in Antwerp are looking fabulous.

Thursday night was the official kickoff for Antwerp Pride. There was a reception held at the Art Museum which was absolutely incredible. A majestic building - the art is divine and it was great mingling with city media and event planners. We were all together anticipating the event. After that we were trammed to an outdoor area where there was music, champagne and new friends. We got to see a new (to me) area of Antwerp and saw even more of how beautiful the city is. After the shindig George and I returned to Twilight to chat with our friend Geoffrey.

Friday night we dined at the Radisson SAS and had a wonderful meal with the Vice Mayor. Following the meal was a sing-a-long to the movie Mamma Mia! You can imagine what a fun event that was. It came complete with candy microphones and party goods. We all sang and danced through the movie. After, we walked to Popi Cafe - a really fun, chic bar near the river. Tons of people were there for drinks and we all made new friends and got to know old ones better. The city is incredibly hospitable.

The late party of the night was a fetish party called "A Hard Night." After a couple cocktails a couple board members and myself thought it would be fun to check it out. After a long walk through the city (with pit stops at a couple other cool bars) we boarded a shuttle at The Boots (a huge leather/fetish club) and went. It was my first one and quite an interesting place. Definitely fun with my friends to check out new things.

Saturday is the main event of Pride - Navigaytion - which was spectacular. A couple non-IGLTA friends came down from Rotterdam to hang out. The event is part circuit party - part boat party - all fun. Basically you enter and there is ample boats to dance on as well as the shore. The boats come and go and you mingle and dance and drink. It was incredibly fun.

The after party was at Red & Blue - the big club that sponsors Navigaytion. If you haven't been to Antwerp and love dancing you're missing out. This club is one of the best in terms of design, music, decor - everything. It is also some of the best fun I've had in Antwerp hanging out with and making new friends. Definitely a must see.

The final night was a bit early - we were home at 4 - but we couldn't keep up with the Europeans after the work/party combo of the past few days. The whole week was amazing and we all left with the excitement that we'll be back next year during our convention. Until then, Antwerp!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Vice Mayor's Birthday Party

Last night, IGLTA Board Members and Staff were invited to the birthday party of Vice Mayor Philip Heylen. The event was extremely well attended - it seemed all of Antwerp was there. The event consisted of a great show featuring some amazing singers including the Vice Mayor himself. The event was incredibly festive - a real celebration. We all had a great time. Again, it was a great introduction to Antwerp after a great first day. Tonight is the opening night of Antwerp Pride so I'm definitely looking forward to that. Otherwise, meetings all day!

Hanging in Antwerp

Yesterday was a perfect day. Absolutely perfect. The weather was very warm, breezy and sunny. Between meetings and work I really got to explore the city.

For lunch, George and I walked from our hotel to the main square of Antwerp and the river. We sat for a bit and then ate pizza at this great Italian restaurant by the main church. It was delightful and relaxing and we had a great stroll back.

In the late afternoon we decided to have some Belgian beer at one of the gay bars around the corner from the hotel. We started at a place called Body Boys for a (very inexpensive) beer and meeting a couple of new friends. Afterwards we decided to check out more of the neighborhood and went to another bar who's name fails me at the moment.

The best was Twilight - a trendy bar with a great back patio. Bryan joined us there for a final beer and we headed back to the hotel. Great time exploring Antwerp!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dinner and a Walk

Tonight was the best night to start a trip. We had an amazing evening in Antwerp - a great start to the week. We walked from the hotel through the city to a restaurant called Horta. The food was delicious and the conversation was devine between myself, my colleagues and our guest from the Vice Mayor's office.

After dinner we took a leisurely stroll to the main square where we had a breathtaking sunset over the old-world European look of Antwerp. We were even lucky enough to see the inside of City Hall - a majestic building. Ann couldn't help herself from taking her glass of wine to perch on the balcony and proclaim, "Let them eat cake!"

It was a fun night and a great intro to the week!

The Hotel

This is the view from my hotel - the spectacular Radisson SAS Astrid. This is my second time staying here and I must say it is one of those places that really do make you feel comfortable. I am super excited that it's the host hotel of IGLTA's convention next year.

Soon to head out to dinner with my colleagues on this great Flemish evening!

Welcome to Belgium!

Hello everybody and greetings from the Brussels airport! I have arrived in the country that is hosting IGLTA's 2010 convention a year from now. I have some time before I board the bus to Antwerp so thought I would check in.

This weekend will see us in meetings all around the city planning next year's event as well as having our quarterly board meeting. Then, this weekend, is Navigaytion - a part of Antwerp Pride - that takes place on boats in the river. I am super excited! I will try to post as much as possible as I run around this great place.

If the weather right now is any indication of what's to come this week - it's going to be beautiful. It's a cool almost 60 degrees Fahrenheit and brightly sunny. It's a nice change from the Miami heat I am used to.

Be excited!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Return to Key West


There are a lot of reasons to return to Key West. I hadn't been there for 25 years and decided it was time to see if the 20-year onslaught of cruise ship tourists really has destroyed the island town that I found so charming and alluring in the 80's.

Key West is as gay and lesbian populated as ever, there are just more straights cued up at the Southernmost mile marker and dancing on Duval street till 4am. If you avoid the day time when shore excursionists are about, and you stay/live/work closer to Old Town than Mallory Square, you'll find plenty to seduce you into staying or returning often.

Key West is literally and figuratively at the End of the Rainbow. I should know, I used to live opposite the famous "0" Mile Marker. I'm told it's not the same sign; over the years this photo icon has been removed so many times that the city had to resort to attaching it with 4 bolts and some fancy holders so drunken sailors and tourists can't remove it as easily. And they say gays are out of control during Pridefest and Fantasyfest!

My former guesthouse has been transformed by a fresh paint scheme, as have many of the historic inns located in Old Town. There are quadruple the number of T-shirt shops, of course, but that's true in every tourist trap. Some gay-friendly restaurants that I remember are still flourishing, like Camille's, Antonia's, and La Te Da's, but alas The Monster is gone and replaced by a Hog's Breath!

As you may know, the founders of IGTA back in '83 included half a dozen charter members from Key West. It was nice to see that some of them are still around, like Alexander's Guesthouse, Big Ruby's, Island House for men, and the former Colours Oasis mansion inn.

You don't want to miss Pridefest in June, Womenfest in September or Fantasyfest in October; if you've never been in 25 years (like me!), isn't it about time you drive down to the southernmost spot in the USA for some memorable fun with your rainbow-loving friends and family?

Key West then and now...always a blend of edgy and trendy, of the historic and wild innovation.
I highly recommend it - especially if you like walking, biking or getting around by scooter or electric car. Leave you auto parked in the town garage and avoid the $25 parking tickets they claim help them balance the city budget. :>)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Making the Most of a Weak Dollar

by Bryan Herb, Zoom Vacations

Any American who has traveled internationally over the past few years would agree that the dollar just doesn’t go as far as it used to. It has been steadily declining while currency from other countries is soaring. While this isn’t the best news for international travelers, traveling smarter can help soften the blow of a poor exchange rate. The following tips will give you the tools you need to travel well without breaking the bank.
Get Travel Quotes in US Dollars
Since it doesn’t appear that the dollar is going to make strong gains any time soon, it is wise to get services quoted in US dollars whenever possible. This safeguards you from being locked into a price that could be rising before your eyes. It also makes it much easier for you in planning a trip budget, as you will not have to switch back and forth between currencies.
Go to the Right Destinations

There are many destinations worldwide that still offer an exceptional value for American tourists. The most notable is Argentina. One can easily find a delicious bottle of wine for under $10—one so good that it will taste like you paid $40. Getting around is easy too, and it’s almost impossible to spend more than $6 on a cab ride, no matter where you are going in the city. While prices for the best hotels are rising, they are about half of what you would pay for equivalent accommodations in another city.
South Africa also still offers an exceptional value, and cities like Cape Town and Knysna are more beautiful than ever. The most costly component of your stay in South Africa will be your hotel, especially if you opt for one of the country’s ultra-luxury 5 star safari lodges, which can run upwards of $1,000 per person per night.
Do as the Locals Do
Stay in areas known to be safe for tourists, but avoid tourist traps. In countries with weaker economies one will often find gouged prices for those goods and services catering to tourists. The expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” takes on new meaning—if you do what the locals do and dine where the locals dine, you may avoid paying tourist upcharges.
Cash in Miles
It’s always tough to know when to use one’s miles, or when to hold onto them for something better. If you are choosing to visit a particularly expensive destination, it may be wise to use miles for the flight to offset the cost of the trip.
Travel With a Group
Traveling with an organized group can provide you with a well-designed trip while allowing you to take advantage of group discounts. You can have experiences that wouldn’t be practical or a good value if done on your own, such as renting a unique venue for a private event or taking a tour with a private guide. As long as you use a company you trust, you can leave the details to them, and use the time you save to be as prepared as possible for your trip.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t let a weak exchange rate stop you from having the incredible, life-changing experiences that international travel can offer. It is interesting to note that over the past five years, even though the dollar is weaker, international travel has actually grown faster than domestic travel.

Zoom Vacations, a global gay vacation company offers incredible gay group and independent trips to Rio for New Years and Carnaval, South Africa, India, Australia for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Peru, Argentina, Amsterdam for Gay Pride, and several luxury mega-yacht cruises. You can find more information on their website at www.zoomvacations.com or call 773 772 ZOOM (9666).

For more information, please go to www.zoomvacations.com, or call 1 773 772 ZOOM (9666).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

St. Croix, Your Port of Solace

In these uncertain times, find a welcome harbor in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.
St. Croix is only twenty-eight miles long and seven miles wide. Dream your vacation possibilities; take your time and visit www.gotostcroix.com for more information.
Re-discover the lost art of rest and relaxation!
Explore the best place to do nothing graciously and escape from your everyday worries.
Discover the warmth of the Caribbean sun, find your inner calm, and be ready for the many choices and locations for excellent food and tropical beverages!
There are plenty of distractions on this beautiful island. You can sample the world’s best Rum at the Cruzan Rum Factory in Frederikststed!
Take a historic walk in either of the old Danish towns; Christiansted or Frederiksted. Check out the Museums. For the nature lover; tour the Botanical Gardens, learn to dive, experience the sea on a guided snorkel at the Pier and see the seahorses living there!
No passport necessary for US Citizens, St. Croix is a United States’ Territory! Enjoy the mélange of cultures and accents! Though, English is the spoken language. Adventure out; drive on the left side of the road!
Scuba-Dive in this amazingly clear water: see incredible reefs, walls and long ago shipwrecks. Take your pick, visit St. Croix where you can choose to become immersed in culture, history or literally, make your own memories! St. Croix is a beautiful setting for the usual and unusual wedding or commitment ceremony! Celebrate your anniversary, birthday or honeymoon in paradise!
Design your own very special occasion. Enjoy the freedom to be yourself on a prime beachfront property: www.sandcastleonthebeach.com and watch the sunset.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Top Ten Reasons to Visit China Now

by Bryan Herb, Zoom Vacations

Most people would consider China to be a vast and extraordinary country encompassing thousands of miles, with a unique history spanning thousands of years. Yet China has recently emerged as one of the stars of the world’s stage, and it’s easy to see why. Architecture buffs can’t ignore China’s developing cities. Epicureans are swiftly taking notice of the gastronomic creations of Master Chef Zhao Renliang from Shanghai or Master Chef Zheng Xinmin from Xian.

As if this wasn’t enough to create excitement over China, just think about the number of things you may have purchased for your home recently that say Made in China. In many ways, China is all around us. Of course there is no better way to enjoy and appreciate this exciting country than to see it firsthand, and no better time than now. China, after all, is so very now. The following are ten reasons to visit China that you just can’t ignore.

1. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing set the bar for future Olympic celebrations in architectural scale and technological advancements. Many world-renown architects contributed their best design efforts to the Olympic buildings.

2. The Great Wall of China was recently listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It stretches over 4,000 miles, and while the latest construction occurred after 1368 during the Ming Dynasty, construction of the Great Wall began over 2,000 years ago. It was built to link existing fortifications into a united defense system and better keep invading Mongol tribes out of China. Without question, thousands of people must have given their lives to build the wall, which is the largest man-made monument ever to have been built. It is even visible from space.

3. Shanghai is the biggest and the most important economic center of China. Swiftly becoming a culinary capital, visitors also delight in the city’s Innovative architecture and fascinating history.

4. The Terracotta Warriors were buried with the first emperor of the Qin dynasty in 210 BCE. They were forgotten for over two thousand years until 1974 when a local farmer discovered them as he was digging a well. Imagine his surprise as he beheld thousands of life-size figures with individually unique faces, hair and uniforms appropriate to their rank.

5. Few places in the world can you see such splendor as exists in Beijing’s Forbidden City, called Gu Gong in Chinese. It was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties and is now known as the Palace Museum, the largest palace complex in the world. Listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987, the Palace Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions world-wide. UNESCO also lists it as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. In addition to seeing traditional architecture up close, there is also a stunning collection of treasures from the imperial family and its court.

6. The culinary scene in China is as exciting as any other place in the world, as master chefs blend age-old techniques and recipes with modern flavors, and even science. Styles vary from city to city. Shanghai, Beijing, Xian all have their own delicious cuisine, and every new city brings with it a gastronomic exploration.

7. Some of the best 5 star hotels in the world are in China. The hotels Zoom Vacations will be calling our homes away from home, the Regent in Beijing and the Le Meridien Shanghai are rated top 20 in all of Asia where the competition is fierce among hotels for the top billing. In addition, service in China is truly an art form.

8. Shopping in China is thrilling for bargain shoppers as well as name brand fashionistas. Just about anything you buy in your home country you can purchase or have made in China at a fraction of the cost. Imagine having a fine custom made suit for less than $200.

9. China’s cities have a lot to offer leisure travelers. Conde Nast Traveler recently named Shanghai and Beijing as two of the world’s Top TEN Cities to Visit.

10. Since China is the world’s fastest growing economy, everything is booming. Walking through its streets by day or night, the excitement is palpable.

As if 10 reasons weren't enough reasons to beckon gay travelers to hop on a plane, China's emerging gay scene is picking up speed, especially in cities like Beijing and Shanghai. You'll find gay-owned business and restaurants, campy gay bars, chic gay lounges, and even rocking gay clubs with a mix of patrons thumping to the latest music. You'll soon see that gay China is not the dishes you inherited from your grandmother.

Zoom Vacations, a global gay vacation company, offers incredible gay group and independent trips to China, Rio for New Years and Carnaval, South Africa, India, Australia for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Peru, Argentina, Madrid for Gay Pride, and several luxury mega-yacht cruises. You can find more information on their website at www.zoomvacations.com or call 773 772 ZOOM (9666).

Gay Pride Art Show in New York

Gallery 225 in Manhattan's Chelsea/West Village area is hosting a Gay Pride Art Show from June 11 thru July 2. Art lovers will enjoy the rich display of paintings, collages, sculpture and photographs of over 20 artists. Prices are affordable so don't miss this show!

Monday, June 8, 2009

GLBT Travel Professionals Gather In Buenos Aires



By Roy Heale
With only one month to go, the excitement is building towards the GNETWORK360, 2nd International Forum of Businesspeople and Entrepreneurs focused on the GLBT Market. This gathering will take place in Buenos Aires on July 15 and 16, 2009 at the Axel Hotel (Venezuela 649 San Telmo) and Chueca (Alsina 975). It is anticipated that more than three hundred attendees will join together to share information and learn about business opportunities within the GLBT niche market.
The forum producers---GMAPS360---are proud to organize “GNETWORK360” the second of these Forums. The event is targeting the 250 most outstanding companies that are currently dedicating part of their communications strategy to the GLBT community. By joining together once again, these businesses will work towards the common goal of promoting Buenos Aires as a gay-friendly destination. Conference attendees will also learn about the unique GLBT market from distinguished guest speakers, workshops, presentations and panel discussions.

In Argentina this conference affords an unprecedented opportunity to learn about one of the most lucrative and loyal global market segments. It will also provide an excellent opportunity for networking and connecting with other travel professionals and businesspeople from different travel-related genres.
Included below is the speakers list and the preliminary agenda options for attendees can be checked online at www.Gnetwork360.com

Some of the conference topics include: Marketing via the Internet, Market Research, GLBT Market Trends, GLBT Tourism Development in Latin America, IGLTA's approach to different issues about the tourism industry, Gay and Lesbian Chambers of Commerce services (NGLCC and IGLCC).

Once again this shows that our city is positioned as one of the most gay friendly and accepting of the GLBT community.

For More Information Visit: http://www.gnetwork360.com/

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gay Days 2009

Hey everybody! I am here at the expo at Gay Days in Orlando! The atmosphere is incredibly festive this Friday as people are gearing up for a fun weekend of parties, theme parks and lots of fun. Stay tuned for more updates!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stay Healthy with These Ten Essentials for your Travel Bag

Article by Bryan Herb, Zoom Vacations

The recent swine flu outbreak has pushed personal health to the forefront on the minds of many travelers.  Whether you are concerned or not about this particular virus, it’s a good wake-up call to make sure you have the tools you need to stay healthy while traveling.

Most avid travelers have a special medicine "goody" bag that they won't leave home without.  The bag is comprised of those essential vitamins, medicine, and other medicine cabinet items whose services they have needed time and again on their travels. The following is a list of the ten most important medicine cabinet items that should accompany you on all foreign travels, whether you're staying in five star accommodations, or spending $10 a night roughing it in a tent site.

Probiotics:  Probiotics are dietary supplements, and live microorganisms containing potentially bacteria or yeasts, which promote intestinal health and functioning.  Probiotics encourage intestinal microflora balance, and promote the healthy functioning of the intestinal system.  So, they can be especially beneficial in the digestion of unfamiliar foods.

Antibiotics.   Antibiotics can be essential in healing intestinal Infections, but you will need to consult your doctor for an antibiotic prescription.  The use of prophylactic antibiotics is not recommended for simple cases of traveler's diarrhea, since they are often ineffective in preventing traveler's diarrhea and there are potential side effects such as allergic reactions and the possibility of developing resistance.

Ibuprofen: Ibuprofen doesn't just numb the pain. It actually decreases inflammation, and thus can assist in healing as well as providing long term relief of sun burns, head or muscle aches, a sore throat, etc.  It's inexpensive, non-addictive, and easy to obtain.

Multivitamin: Each of the 13 essential vitamins (A, C, D, E, K, B12, and the 7 B-complex vitamins) provides the regulation of a crucial bodily functions, and if we are deficient in any of these, we can become ill.  Since travel puts a degree of stress and strain on our bodies, and our diets can change dramatically while in foreign destinations, it is even more important that we do not rely solely on the foods we eat for the vitamins we need.

Antibacterial Gels: Using antibacterial or sanitizer gels reduces the chance of coming down with a gastrointestinal illness.  However, using them is not as effective as washing your hands for at least ten seconds with soap and water.  These gels or wipes are ideal for times when soap and water simply aren't available.

Antacid:  Antacids are used to help with heartburn, upset stomach, acid indigestion, and sour stomach, because they counteract the effects of extra stomach acid.  That spicy enchilada and fifth margarita sounds like a good idea until your stomach can't handle it, and then you'll be glad you brought your Tums

Antihistamine:  Antihistamines are very useful for reducing allergic reactions and inflammation, and their uses stem beyond alleviating traditional allergies.  Especially when traveling, you never know when you will encounter something new to which you are allergic, or when you will develop a reaction to something common, like the sun! Antihistamines can also alleviate the symptoms associated with insect bites, stings, and sunburns.  

Diarrhea medicine:  Diarrhea medicine can feel like a life saver, and there is debate on whether one should take it, since some believe your body needs to expel whatever is in the body. However, diarrhea can also lead to dehydration, and most would agree that stopping diarrhea is vital to stopping dehydration.  Diarrhea medicine can also alleviate the feelings of dizziness and stomachaches associated with traveler’s diarrhea.

Tweezers:  Tweezers are one of the many things we take for granted in our medicine cabinets at home, but as soon as you have a painful splinter or ingrown hair, you'll wish you had them with you. They take up virtually no room nor weight in your bag, so there is no reason to leave on a trip without a pair.

Sleeping Aid:  If you have difficulty sleeping at home, this may be magnified while trying to sleep on planes and foreign hotel beds.  Perhaps nothing is more frustrating, nor makes you feel more haggard, than enduring a long flight when you simply cannot sleep.  Consult your doctor for one that is right for you.  As an alternative to hard core sleep aids, three to five milligrams of Melatonin may be all you need to kick start your sleep.  Melatonin is naturally found in the body and has other health benefits as well; for instance, it even helps your body acclimate faster to new time zones.

Bryan Herb co-owns Zoom Vacations, an award-winning global gay vacation company offering incredible gay group and independent trips to a variety of international destinations.  You can find more information on their website at www.zoomvacations.com or call 773 772 ZOOM (9666).