Muslim Wire

IGLTA supports gay travel businesses in the Middle East

Posted in Society by muslimwire on October 20, 2009

The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association participated in a groundbreaking four-hour symposium on LGBT tourism at the gay community center in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 11. The first-of-its-kind event, coordinated by LGBT organizations in Tel Aviv, attracted the city’s mayor, numerous media outlets, and local queer protestors.

The symposium included presentations on Tel Aviv and Israel in general, with Mayor Ron Huldai on hand to speak about Tel Aviv’s diversity and extend a welcome to the gay community. The city is widely considered the most gay-friendly spot in the Middle East.

“It has been fascinating to us that Tel Aviv has an Arab community living in peace here with the Jewish community,” said IGLTA President/CEO John Tanzella, who spoke about the 1,400-member association. “We are meeting gay business professionals from all religions and backgrounds within the Middle East.”

Protests at the event focused on Israeli occupation of Gaza. “They were using our gathering as a means to make their concerns public with all the radio and TV that came to meet us,” Tanzella said. “We certainly welcome freedom of speech, but it should be noted that our focus is to support LGBT businesses around the world, wherever they might be located. We reached out to the Muslim gay community in surrounding countries during our trip planning and have found the gay connection helps to break down barriers.”

The symposium is part of a familiarization tour of Israel and Jordan that also includes Nazareth, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and Petra. Twenty IGLTA members from various countries are participating in the FAM, which runs through Oct. 18 and is organized by Tel Aviv-based Kenes Tours.

IGLTA, which has staff and representatives in 19 countries, is the leading global organization dedicated to connecting businesses in the LGBT tourism industry. Its membership spans 68 countries (including Israel, Jordan and Lebanon) and consists of accommodations, airlines, tour operators, travel agents, destinations, media and other key players in the tourism industry. Since 1983, IGLTA has worked to help the tourism industry reach LGBT travelers and learn more about this market.

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