Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Iranian Diplomat Welcomes Gay Tourists - More Friendly than Eastern Europe at Global Tourism Conference

Andalucía took over an entire pavillion - exciting displays!
Where does the government spend millions on tourism displays even just for Andalucía? Only in Spain, where tourism truly is the industry FITUR is one of the world's largest tourism conferences held in Spain annually & so I attended representing Capital Hostels as well as my nascent LGBT business (the world's 1st global gay concierge!). I spent the majority of my time talking to extremely helpful IGLTA reps and meeting exhibitors and representatives from specific gay tourism enterprises.

But then, I got excited about an idea. What if I went around to each booth and simply asked for LGBT-specific information? Of course, it became only a small, very unscientific test - restricted by my lack of spanish language skills, sometimes absent booth attendants and lack of global attendance. However, it proved fun and exciting. Most surprising: the excited and engaging responses from Iran and Turkey compared to Poland and Romania, who basically "leveled with me" that gays aren't welcome in Eastern Europe! Is it money these friendly darker faces want or simply Eastern Europe's more direct, cold culture compared to always-welcoming Persians? Maybe, but overall, the tourism industry did want LGBT travelers (no surprises here!).

FITUR's Gay Test

Monday, January 20, 2014

Putin's Olympics: In the End, Golden for Gays?

This blog is about travel - but after recent experiences conversing with new friends abroad, I'm inspired to ensure other LGBT travelers are armed with cultural realities as well as reflect on how LGBT people can affect change.

It's sometimes difficult – especially after living inside the gay-bubble of Washington, DC - to imagine the difficult, solitary lives gays lead (and the entire LGBT family) outside of urban centers and the "civilized" West. For those with the means, we owe it to activists that suffered and even died to provide the better quality of life we lead - to do what we can to support LGBT people suffering abroad. The opportunities to affect change are global, but the problems (as well as solutions) can be summed up by focusing in on Russia’s new “anti-propaganda” law in the run-up to Sochi.

With swift pronouncements, protests and online posts, LGBT rights activists and right-minded politicians condemn Putin's law – galvanizing the western world to oppose the law. However, hidden from most people's awareness, is the reality that this plays exactly into Putin’s power at home. Also, his recent not-so-charming offensive to address the law's condemnation is not positive for the LGBT community; he's still playing to his base. Hatred abroad only shores up his most radical support at home. While he stands up to the West against "child-molesting" gays - who knows what shady deals he's hiding from his own people, let alone the world. Whatever transpires in Sochi, the LGBT rights issue has been brought to the fore, and with the correct thinking and directed work this might actually become a win for Russian gays and the global LGBT community.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sevilla: Hot Hidden Jem - Another Reason to Love Spain

View from Metropol Parasol
With the economic crisis, you would think Sevilla would seem dirty (maybe like Athens) with poor lining the streets or poorly maintained neighborhoods. Nope - Sevilla is open for business (even in the stifling heat of August)! Whether it's keeping the tourists coming or just keeping people employed, Sevilla appears immaculate, with beautifully manicured parks and drives, clean streets and pedestrian areas (though they must be hosed down every night). Lose yourself in the cobblestone streets in the old town, make friends and party all night long with the students and backpackers from Germany to Japan.