John Tanzella is the President/CEO of the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA) a global non-profit tourism association. Founded in 1983 with 25 members, IGLTA has grown into the leading global organisation dedicated to LGBTQ+ tourism. Since his arrival in 2005, IGLTA business contacts have increased to 7 000+ located in 82 countries.
Prior to joining IGLTA, John has worked for Delta Air Lines, the Washington D.C. Convention Bureau, and the Human Rights Campaign. He was born in Massachusetts, attended the University of Georgia, lived for three years in Italy and now resides in South Florida. In addition to serving on both the IGLTA Board and the IGLTA Foundation Board, he also serves on two other boards: the National Stonewall Museum & Archives Board and the Advisory Board for Atout-France (the National Tourism Office of France).
How did you fall in love with travelling? I was born into an airline family, so it was instantly in my blood. My father worked in the airline industry—which is where he met my mother—as were many aunts and uncles. As far back as I can remember, I was very lucky to experience travel.
What kind of traveller are you? In my role at IGLTA, I do a significant amout of travel overseas, so I am fairly laid back when traveling for leisure—not planning much in advance or having many “must dos” during the planning stage. For business travel, however, I am very much an advance planner to ensure the logistics and meetings are all buttoned up well before leaving.
What’s your travel philosophy? Take it all in, particularly when it comes to learning about different cultures and ways of living. That was something my parents instilled in me and my brothers at a young age.
What are your top travel essentials? With a heavy travel regime, I keep a drawer specifically for travel items. I have all of my liquid products (favorite shampoo, etc.) in small travel bottles so I have everything I would normally have at home. Other items, like my passport, plug adaptors, sinus/cold medications and shoe shine packets, are there, too, ready to be easily packed.
Where was your most memorable trip? At our 2016 global convention at Cape Town’s historic Mount Nelson, the largest IGLTA Convention outside North America to date, I spent a week before and after the event to enjoy South Africa. Although I had been a few times, this trip was even more memorable because I was with so many friends to enjoy the sightseeing, wine country and local sites. I’ve made many friends in southern Africa and cherish the times we are together.
How has travelling changed your life? Like many globetrotters, travelling helps you appreciate and understand (and love) different cultures and traditions. You realise how big the world is and how small the world is, that we are all connected.
When borders open again and the world starts to return to ‘a new normal’ what’s your first travel destination on your list? Although I’d love to visit Africa, it’s probably more realistic to stay domestic—with New York City at the top of my list. I am looking forward to being back in the city that never sleeps, seeing a Broadway show, doing some shopping and dining around the lesser-known neighbourhoods like a local.
Best travel advice you can share? Whether you travel frequently or have just that one international trip per year, be sure to take in the local culture and customs as that is what you’ll always remember and cherish from your travels. Of course, you will want to see the famous tourist sites, but dig beyond that to learn about a destination.