Fresh off the IGLTA’s Global Convention in Milan, Italy, the organization is preparing for its 2023 event, scheduled for San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Milan event boasted attendees from 39 countries and was the largest ever held outside of the United States. TravelPulse recently caught up with IGLTA’s President/CEO John Tanzella, to chat about the association’s plans for its Caribbean convention.
TP: What made Puerto Rico stand out to IGLTA as a convention host?
JT: In a region that presents many challenges for the LGBTQ+ community, Puerto Rico is a welcoming beacon. The DMO, Discover Puerto Rico, is very progressive in supporting marginalized communities in their activities and advocating for education and inclusion in the island’s hospitality industry. We have been so moved by the commitment of their team and their enthusiasm for our convention.
TP: This will be the organization’s 40th-anniversary convention. Can you comment on the significance of that?
JT: It’s a momentous anniversary for any LGBTQ+ organization—very few have been around as long as IGLTA. Our association is older than many members of our team! The longevity really underscores travel’s power to unite people.
With the support of our dedicated partners and members, we plan to make this a must-attend conference. It will be both a celebration of our 40 years and an event to inspire everyone working to advance LGBTQ+ travel for the future. And a fun fact: IGLTA’s second convention ever was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1985.
TP: What would you say to potential attendees who might say, “I’ve already been to Puerto Rico” … how you encourage them to return to the island, and why?
JT: The variety of undiscovered experiences in Puerto Rico is vast, from nature to gastronomy (including a renaissance of coffee haciendas) to cultural, with Taino, African, and Spanish influences blending into the music, art, and architecture. Recent renovations and an influx of new businesses will also make the familiar exciting. Plus, we guarantee that seeing Puerto Rico with 1,000 like-minded travelers will be your best-ever experience!
TP: What special events/tours can you talk about for the 2023 convention?
JT: The pre- and post-experience options for the convention will feature destinations throughout Puerto Rico—which we’ve heard will include the queer-popular Boquerón and Vieques, as well as day trips to the rainforest and the stunning beaches of Culebra. The official offerings haven’t been posted yet, but you can check for updates under the Travel tab at igltaconvention.org.
TP: Can you discuss what the IGLTA is thinking about for potential 2024 locations? And what’s the timing for that announcement?
JT: The board made the decision to send out RFPs for the next three conventions now to allow the team more preparation and promotion time. 2024 and 2026 will be held outside of North America. 2025 will be in North America. The bidding process is open through February, and then the board will analyze and make its selections.
TP: Now that we’re a few months past Milan, any particular takeaways from that event that may affect the programming in 2023?
JT: We received high marks for our enhanced Buyer/Supplier Marketplace produced in collaboration with Jacobs Media Group, which was much more interactive to create stronger connections; the JMG team will return to lead that day of scheduled buyer-supplier meetings again this year. Everyone loves our networking, and we’ll continue to build upon those successes with evening events at unique venues to showcase San Juan and the return of our two-day LGBTQ+ Tourism Expo. We also were proud to have our most diverse lineup of speakers, but that is something we still need to enhance in 2023 to ensure our convention reflects intersectionality within our community.