Africa Travel Week

LoAnn Halden: I miss travel so much!

LoAnn Halden is the Vice President-Communications for the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, the global leader in advancing LGBTQ+ travel. IGLTA’s mission is to provide information and resources for LGBTQ+ travelers and expand LGBTQ+ tourism globally by demonstrating its significant social and economic impact. In her role, LoAnn frequently speaks to global media outlets about LGBTQ+ tourism trends and has participated in travel sessions for consumers and trade on five continents, including WTM Africa, Barcelona LGBTI Tourism Summit, the New York Times Travel Show, GNetwork360 in Buenos Aires and the JATA Expo in Tokyo. She is based in Fort Lauderdale, home to IGLTA headquarters, and London.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be in your role today?

I began my professional as a journalist first from where I expanded into travel writing before I moved into PR for the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association.

Much of my previous writing was for LGBTQ+ publications, so it was a natural move to use my LGBTQ+ travel and media background to support IGLTA.

Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day

Yoga, a day at the desk in my home office with lots of video calls, going for a walk and repeat.

I miss travel so much! But more specifically, each day includes some combination of developing communication strategies for the organisation, responding to press requests, creating content, and supporting our members around the world. Interest in LGBTQ+ travel has grown so much in my 11 years with IGLTA.

On a personal note, how has travel changed your life?

In all the best ways! It has given me my career, a global network of friends and it has connected me with my wife, whom I met at WTM London at a business meeting.

What are the key challenges you see for the travel and tourism industry?

Travel recovery from the impact of COVID-19 is frustrating and much slower than all of us would like.

The vaccine news has been positive for some countries, but others are really struggling. One of the most critical challenges is to develop consistent global messaging and protocols for international travel, and for many travel companies, the more time that process takes, the harder it is to keep their doors open.

What are the key opportunities you see for the travel and tourism industry?

This is an amazing opportunity to reset and take a stronger approach to sustainability, not only from an environmental standpoint, but also sustainability from a human rights perspective. Supporting the people in your community, including LGBTQ+ people, is essential to local sustainability. The travel and tourism industry are in a great position to champion a more inclusive model.

What should travel and tourism professionals be doing to add value to travel and tourism on the African continent?

Wearing my IGLTA hat, they should ensure that LGBTQ+ visitors feel just as safe as welcome as non-LGBTQ+ travelers. Because same-sex relationships are criminalized in so many African countries, many queer travelers feel the entire continent is unsafe for them. If more travel and tourism professionals committed not only to delivering experiences that make LGBTQ+ travelers feel valued, but also to championing change in their communities, the entire African travel industry would benefit.

What do you foresee travel and tourism will look like post COVID-19?

There will a big demand when the gates finally open, and LGBTQ+ travellers are a loyal and resilient group that will lead the way. I know so many people who were putting off big trips for a special occasion and now they believe there is no time like the present. The ability to travel will not be taken for granted the way it was before.

What is the importance of travel and tourism shows like Africa Travel Week, including World Travel Market Africa?

Travel and tourism shows are essential to building business relationships, particularly on a global scale. We also gain a much greater understanding of best practices and industry trends when we can all come together in this way.

Africa Travel Week

Africa Travel Week (ATW) focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology. Shows include: ILTM Africa, WTM Africa, EQUAL Africa, ibtm AFRICA, Travel Forward, Sports & Events Tourism Exchange and African Tourism Investment Summit.