Despite worries about wars, the economy, and the 2024 election year, people are still traveling — as evidenced by the well-attended Travel & Adventure Show, which attracted 24,000 people to New York’s Javits Center on Jan. 27 and 28.
Among its highlights included the LGBTQ Pavilion, organized by Ed Salvato, an educator and consultant with decades in the LGBTQ travel field.
Salvato told Gay City News that 6,000 people passed through the LGBTQ Pavilion area, 11% more than last year. There were 17 participating partners and an international group of eight student volunteers from the New York University Hospitality program, where Salvato teaches.
In addition, Salvato added, there was a “stunning drag queen, Delta Miles, who brought the house down performing several live numbers on our dedicated stage. The Pavilion truly welcomes all travelers, including LGBTQ people and their family, friends, and loved ones by creating a sense of belonging where everyone is welcomed as a unique individual.”
Several Florida destinations were in the LGBTQ Pavilion, including Fort Lauderdale. Richard Gray, Senior Vice President, Inclusion & Accessibility for Visit Lauderdale, told Gay City News that his organization was trying to be even more inclusive this year in its promotion. Gray said, “The old campaign was ‘Welcome Everyone Under The Sun.’ Now we’re ‘Just Be You: Everyone Under The Sun.’ And I think we’re pushing the envelope even more in these current times and we’re embracing everybody, whether you have a visible or invisible disability, whether you’re lesbian, gay, trans, bi, the gamut. We welcome everybody, so just be you.”
Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, a former presidential candidate, has been behind oppressive laws targeting LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, and racial justice.
International destinations in the Pavilion included South Africa, among the world’s first countries to enshrine LGBTQ rights in its constitution. Among the themes promoted by the country is that 2024 will mark the 30th anniversary of the end of apartheid.
Spain, which will host the 2026 Gay Games in Valencia, had the largest presence of any international destination within the Pavilion. Gonzalo Fernandez of Spain’s National Tourist Office told Gay City News more than 60,000 athletes were expected to participate.
“There’s a very nice combination between gastronomy, art and culture [in Valencia],” Fernandez said. “There’s also plenty of museums, weather, very nice food. And don’t forget, if you go to Valencia, to try the famous paella.”
Other exhibitors at the Pavilion included DNR Travel, run by the duo behind the long-running Derek & Romaine radio show.
“This is our first time at the travel show and we’re just excited to see what everybody else is offering and hopefully run into some of the listeners of our radio show and talk about our cruises,” Derek Hartley told Gay City News. Hartley said the duo began doing cruises 10 years ago as a way to meet their listeners.
Also exhibiting at the Pavilion was the travel emergency group International Lifeline, which recently began donating a portion of sales to the IGLTA Foundation, the charity division of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. Sean Fortune Hornbeck, the company’s executive vice president of sales, told Gay City News, “The LGBTQ community is an underserved community to begin with. We also have unique concerns when we travel. As we’re kind of a targeted group, we really wanted to make sure that we were able to get our message out to everyone about the types of protections that we could provide.”
The Pavilion was just one part of the show, and many other destinations popular with LGBTQ travelers were exhibiting throughout the convention center. Delaware highlighted Rehoboth Beach, popular with LGBTQ travelers as well as being the summer vacation home for current President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. New Jersey highlighted Monmouth County, including the beach town Asbury Park, popular with local LGBTQ travelers and home to New Jersey’s annual Pride March. Taiwan, the only Asian country where same-sex marriage is legal, also had a large presence.
Areas touched by war were also exhibiting, including the organization Rebuild Ukraine Travel and Israel. Chad Martin, Director, Northeast Region for the Israel Ministry of Tourism, said tourism in the country is at about a quarter of the levels it was before the war. Still, he told Gay City News that various upcoming events, including Tel Aviv’s annual Pride, would still happen, despite the war with Hamas.
The New York Travel & Adventure Show will return to the Javits in January 2025.