Brief report on the first LGBT+ Travel Symposium Thailand and ‘famil’ of Bangkok and Koh Samui.

Part I – The first LGBT+ Travel Symposium Thailand

As a Sydney based gay travel advisor servicing the LGBT and luxury traveller, Points of Difference Travel & Events was invited to attend the first LGBT+ Travel Symposium in Thailand, presented in partnership by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. To our knowledge, this is the first time a national government has ever hosted an event like this, to specifically engage with the LGBT+ traveller through suppliers, agents and media.

This was their coming out party. It was public and proud. It was a screaming success.

From the glamorous welcome cocktail party on the rooftop of the So/Sofitel Bangkok, complete with live drag/cabaret performances (from Thailand’s Drag Race), the program was packed with activities: intense networking, “speed-dating”, venue inspections, key-note addresses, panel discussions and incredible case studies on successful engagements with the LGBT+ community. Members of the Thai government presented, along with Thai celebrities and LGBT+ pioneers from around the globe.

There where over 33 Thai hotels and suppliers to meet, plus other travel advisors and tour companies that visit Thailand, along with international media. Some of the delegate countries where a surprise, with Germany listed as a major market and also Israel. The latter having moved their market from the post-military service ‘letting off steam’ male travellers, to a broader more inclusive strategy.

The calibre of speakers was high and wide-ranging.

For example, Imri Kalmann from Israel who, in addition to being from the TAT Israel office, is also a significant gay businessman, social activist and co-chairman of the former Israel LGBT society, and a man of nightlife in Tel Aviv who founded several successful clubs in the city.

The discussions were rich and varied with the panels discussing a variety of topics:

  • The global report on LGBT+ Travel
  • Working with LGBT+ Media
  • How to work with LGBT+ buyers (which featured Australian Reece Farmilo)

The presentations were gay and entertaining, with personal accounts covering a breadth of topics:

  • Social Media engagement and influencers, “Finding your Vincent”, which featured Australian Vincent
    Rommelaere as the case study, presented by Jesse Desjarins from fwNATION (already familiar to some Australians).
  • Case study presentation from Shiho Ikeuchi from the Hotel Granvia Kyoto was one of the more colourful, with highlights from their first every LGBT wedding packages and rainbow collateral.
  • Personal favourite was the case study from Belmond, presented by Elio Lopez who is their Director of LGBT Sales, a position we believe is unique. Elio shared his experiences with Belmond as a client, travelling to wonderful destinations in Belmond luxury and service, which then transitioned into employment.
  • And ending with “Sensitivity Training Tips”, from Billy Kolber, Founder of Man About World & Hospitable Me. The simple takeaway being to avoid ‘ladies and gentleman’ and instead use a more inclusive term such as “friends”, “guests”, “y’all”. We should add “g’day mate” to the list!

This Symposium bought together a diverse group of people, all passionate about their particular product, skill or experience. It was wrapped in warm and welcoming Thai hospitality and it was noted by many how sincere this welcome felt. Thailand honestly wants the LGBT+ community to visit it shores and offers a safe and spectacular environment in which to do this, packed full of cultural treats and delicious opportunities. The connections made amongst participants further strengthens the international LGBT+ community and provides us all with great contacts to help our clients and customers, all around the globe.

Organiser and key driver behind the event, Urwin Jong (Editor in Cheif at OutThere Magazine) also announced that this is the first of what is hoped to be an ongoing concept, with further events flagged in Europe and the US.

The event wrapped up with a really cool event at the So/Sofitel Pool Party – Rainbow Edition. Needless to say, the networking continued!

The future of LGBT+ travel certainly looks amazing!

See Instagram under #gothaibefree #lgbttravelsymposium #hugthailand

Want to know more about Thailand? Contact us today on 1300 990 390 or email us.

Part II to follow – our travels and experiences exploring Bangkok and Koh Samui.