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Interview: Marketing African destinations to LGBTQ travellers

by Herman Manson (@marklives) The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) will host Spectrum, its 33rd annual global convention, at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, 14–16 April 2016. John Tanzella, IGLTA CEO, discusses the reasons for bringing the event to the African continent for the first time, and how destination marketers may reach out to LGBTQ travellers.


John Tanzella

Why did the IGLTA decide to bring its convention to the African continent for the first time?​
John Tanzella:
IGLTA has held a convention since it began in 1983, but it had never been held in Africa. We are committed to being global, so it was time to correct that! We have longstanding relationships with South Africa Tourism and SAA, which are essential to the event’s success, and we have a strong and growing membership base in South Africa. We’ve also seen our business members selling more African travel; there is a growing demand among Lgbt Travelers for safaris, wine tours, and ecotourism.


To what extent is the IGLTA currently represented on the continent and how to you intend expanding your membership here?​
Our largest membership group is in South Africa, and there are just over 40 business members on the African continent now. We have a volunteer ambassador in Cape Town, David Ryan of Rhino Africa, and he helps us to spread the word about IGLTA on an ongoing basis. We also formed an event partnership with WTM Africa last year to help with our outreach efforts.


Is there any engagement between the IGLTA and national or regional destination marketing organisations on the continent outside of SA?​
We have business members in other countries, such as hotels and tour operators, but not tourism boards. ​


What is the aim of the convention and why is it relevant to the broader marketing and advertising community?​
JT: We want to spotlight SA, particularly Cape Town, as a welcoming place for LGBT Travelers. Our conventions are designed to help create a stronger, more-supportive and better-educated LGBT tourism network worldwide. Any marketing companies that work in tourism should be aware of how to sell effectively to the widest possible audience, and LGBT travelers are an important part of that.


How is SA and specifically Cape Town perceived by LGBT travellers?​
JT: Cape Town has long been a popular destination for LGBT travelers but we are working with SAT to promote many more great options countrywide, such as the amazing safaris, culture and gastronomy. ​


What do you hope will be the legacy of the convention for the host city, and LGBT traveller, once it’s been concluded?​
JT: We hope the global LGBT travel business community will develop a greater appreciation and understanding of SA as a welcoming destination and that the number of LGBT travelers to Cape Town will continue to grow.


Finally, any insight on best practice in terms of destinations reaching out to LGBT travellers?​
JT: Remember that it’s not a one-size fits all LGBT market. Are you targeting LGBT families, singles, lesbians, gay men? What age bracket? Your marketing needs to speak to your audience, just as with mainstream travel. Be authentic in your messaging. Not every destination needs to have a huge gay neighborhood or lots of bars to appeal to LGBT travelers, but be honest about what you have and play to your strengths. And, also, plan to commit for the long haul. LGBT travelers are very loyal to places that show a long-term commitment to inclusiveness.


Special offer: African attendees can attend the convention as a special rate of US$275 for the three-day conference, which includes education, lunches, and evening networking events. Register at and use the code: 16afrreg.


Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of He was the inaugural Vodacom Social Media Journalist of the Year in 2011 and has, over his 20-year-plus career, contributed to numerous journals and websites in South Africa and abroad, including AdVantage magazine, Men’s Health, Computer World and African Communications.

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Interview: Marketing African destinations to LGBTQ travellers


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