Sunday, April 13, 2014

ITB Berlin: The World's Largest Tourism Fair

I've arrived! The LGBT Travel section at ITB
The world’s largest tourism fair proved to be a re-run of much of the same displays and people from Madrid's FITUR. However, I did go back to the booths of Iran, Romania and Poland – after harsh responses to LGBT travel questions in Madrid – yet I spent more time getting to know people; that's really the key to any conference, especially when you're opening a travel business. Plus, finding the right people means you also find fun...

Berlin is a world of its own; truly apart from Germany and maybe even Europe. I discovered its hipster/cosmopolitan/artsy charm in my two previous visits - including one for Berlin CSD (Christopher Street Day - German gay Pride) last year. This time not only did I get to meet successful LGBT bloggers (like Adam from "Travels of Adam") - but I met up with my Berlin boyfriend, and attended Berlin's best Sunday dance party - GMF!

From the conference, I must thank Laurel Robbins ( who expertly filled me in on how difficult and time consuming it is to be a "real" blogger. Thus, I'm now building on my Google + profile (why not, a few more web hits might be good). Still, I don't want too many people to read this blog - otherwise the great destinations will be over-run with terrible tourists.

Enjoying new travel tools and websites – I got to know Swati at, India’s largest travel planning & itinerary building website. Then heard about a great new app that will soon revolutionize the travel industry – simply! It combines your flight data with social media to track friends who also will be traveling – finally a replacement for very antiquated, Trip-It!

I also want to give a shout-out to devoted activists who hope to bring you to an exciting Pride week in... Slovenia (?!) Looking for a new place to celebrate? Come on over May 4-11 for PinkWeek!

Of course, visiting the different booths, I did re-ask about resources for LGBT tourists: Iran tour operators said again that gays (or maybe gay westerners?) would be welcome. Romania at least didn’t tell me not to come this time; they simply remained truthful about the degree of conservatism (read ignorance) in society.

Poland’s huge section-wide tourism booth held certainly something for everyone – quite fitting for an inexpensive neighboring country. I chatted with the city rep for Lodz, who believed gay clubs existed in the main city (according to google they sure do!). Apparently, this is the city the kids flock to from Warsaw for a party!

I also investigated countries on my itinerary:  an Ethiopian tourism official specifically said they “don’t encourage that” whether he meant LGBT people – or LGBT people coming to Ethiopia I’m not sure. Ironic to hear that virulently anti-gay Uganda's tourism board actually welcomed the gays! Again - I'm not recommending any gay-cations to Africa - if you're going on Safari, take your parents or a friend, not the boyfriend.

Oman attendants proved to be welcoming – people told me it was a very open society – being here now proves it certainly is open to... western-like food, cars and electronics. However, they recently made live music illegal (let's not even bring up the gay thing). More on this soon, after I leave what I've been calling ultra-conservative California.
Blurry - just like the night -
Phil & I enjoy a moment

Phil Fusco (from NY)
Spartacus' Gay Guide
Cover boy
As a nice close to the conference, on the last day (leaving) I met one of those bright young gay boys of Berlin. It's true, even the subways are packed with beautiful men. But a word of warning: these guys may seem innocent but don't be fooled - no matter their age, this isn't their first go-round. They will be direct and they nearly always get what they want. Damn them. Good thing these adorable guys deserve it!

After enjoying a late night stroll along the river Spree with one of those deserving, direct gentlemen - I danced my butt off at GMF (true, more mainstream than hipster) for Spartacus' yearly gay guide launch party. I'm not sure how they pack the gay universe into one (thick) book, but they certainly know how to pick boy-next-door-models.

The conference is just too big to be worth promoting any specific travel business (for me) - but it's always worth stopping by just to be in Berlin!