LGBTQ Community in Focus at New York Travel & Adventure Show

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The Diversity Panel at the New York Travel and Adventure Show. From left to right: Danielle Pointdujour, Keith Langston, Brian Major and Rachel Chang
Michael Luongo

Travel is back.

That was the buzz at the New York Travel & Adventure Show, held at the Javits Center March 18-20. It was the largest travel show of its kind in New York since the beginning of the pandemic. The last time a similar event was held in New York was when the last New York Times Travel Show took place in January of 2020. Once the largest travel expo in North America, it became a permanent casualty of the pandemic.

Jonathan Golicz, Vice President of the Travel & Adventure Show, the group behind the event, said about 14,000 members of the public attended the show.

The event was divided into two components: Friday was for members of the travel industry, while Saturday and Sunday were for the general public to receive information about destinations from the dozens of countries, travel agencies, and other organizations represented by booths at the show. The humanitarian issue of the war in Ukraine and its disruption to travel was also on the minds of many, and members of the Office of the Consulate General of Ukraine in New York briefly addressed the event’s industry day on Friday.

The event also included a diversity media panel examining issues pertaining to LGBTQ, Black, Asian-American, feminist and other communities in the travel industry. Panelist Keith Langston, an editor for the gay travel magazine Passport, reminded the audience that “gay people exist more than just the month of June.” He added, however, that since the summer of 2020, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, companies have been more broadly aware of the importance of diversity.

“We get emails from companies that just want to support the community — that want to get involved with the community,” he said, adding that LGBTQ issues are “getting more year-round coverage and people are coming to us saying, ‘we really want to reach out to the LGBTQ community, even though it’s November.'”

Later, after the panel, Langston told Gay City News that the disruption in the industry is an opportunity for LGBTQ travelers to become more adventurous.

“I would like to see gay travel expand to places that are not traditionally ‘LGBTQ.’ You know, I think that if we keep gay travel in Key West and San Francisco, it’s like, where’s the adventure?” he said. “Where are we growing? Where are we learning new things?”

Richard Gray, Rachel Ferguson and Ed Salvato at the opening of the LGBTQ+ Travel Pavilion at the New York Travel and Adventure Show.Michael Luongo

Richard Gray, senior vice president of inclusion and accessibility for Visit Fort Lauderdale, was also at the show — and he told Gay City News he believes LGBTQ people will be at the vanguard of travel in the post-COVID era.

“LGBTQ travelers are more resilient than mainstream travelers and have more disposable income to spend on travel,” said Gray, who added that queer people are more willing to take risks.

Gray added, however, that LGBTQ travelers “are still cautious about international travel” for the time being, so he feels domestic travel will spike first.

Part of the plan to help this along was the opening of the show’s LGBTQ pavilion, which Gray played a role in. Along with Fort Lauderdale, many booths represented Florida. To a degree, the strong promotion was a hedge against the recent “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill that was signed into law on March 28 by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. Standing up at his booth for the pavilion’s official opening, Gray stated, “Broward County did not agree with DeSantis in any shape or form. We are going to push the envelope even more and speak out even more.”

The work of LGBTQ travel legend and marketing pioneer Jeff Guaracino, who died last year, was also honored by many in their conversations during the opening. Rachel Ferguson, who serves as the chief innovation and global diversity officer for Visit Philadelphia and worked with Guaracino, helped open the pavilion and referred Gay City News to her LinkedIn post about his passing.

“I was instantly drawn to his energy, creativity, and love for the City of Philadelphia,” Ferguson said. “He was a passionate, charismatic leader. He was a pioneer in the tourism and hospitality industry — and he was Philadelphia’s biggest cheerleader. With his passing, Visit Philadelphia suffers an immeasurable loss.”

Ferguson noted that LGBTQ travel was one component among many efforts aimed at diverse markets for Philadelphia.

“We are amplifying everything that our city has to tell these stories,” Ferguson told Gay City News.

Noting the importance of intersectionality among diverse groups, she especially highlighted Philadelphia’s Juneteenth Parade, which also corresponds with Pride Month.

The LGBTQ presence at the event also came with rainbows, music and drag. Karla Croqueta was among the performers at a stage within the pavilion, adding a touch of glamour to the Miami booth.

Ed Salvato, an educator and consultant with decades of experience in LGBTQ travel media, was the organizer of the LGBTQ pavilion — a tradition he originally brought to the New York Times Travel Show.

“What pulled it all together though was the vibe,” Salvato said. “We had drag queens, young queer influencers, and everyone was just happy to be back at the event. That was the true spirit of the show.”