At the invitation of the Africa Travel Association, International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association President/CEO John Tanzella and Past Board Chair Tanya Churchmuch met staff from Uganda Tourism and tourism businesses from Uganda’s private sector to discuss the issues surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tourism to Uganda.
While many African nations are known for their homophobic policies, Uganda has been on the frontlines since its Parliament passed a particularly virulent anti-gay bill last December, and several Western nations began withdrawing aid amidst the global outcry. The September 8 meeting with IGLTA took place at ATA’s headquarters as part of a U.S. road show for Destination Uganda, just over one month after a Ugandan court struck down the law.
“ATA is pleased to facilitate a meeting between the Uganda Tourism Board and the Uganda private sector and IGLTA to discuss timely issues relating to the promotion and marketing of tourism,” said ATA Executive Director Edward Bergman. “We understand the challenges relating to the debate on welcoming gay and lesbian tourists in many parts of Africa and see meetings like this as opportunities to engage in dialogue.”
Tanzella said that the Ugandan representatives promoted an “everyone is welcome” message throughout the 90-minute meeting while also asking thoughtful questions that underscored the need for more education.
“IGLTA appreciates ATA inviting representatives from our leadership team to meet with the delegation from various segments of Uganda inbound tourism,” Tanzella said. “Does Uganda have work to do? Absolutely. But as a business association, we were happy to share our perspective on the connection between local LGBT rights and welcoming international LGBT travelers, and the Ugandan delegation was very open to the conversation.”
This meeting is particularly significant as IGLTA prepares to bring its Annual Global Convention to Africa for the first time in 2016.
“We hope to have many more meetings like this in the months leading up to our conference in Cape Town, South Africa,” Tanzella said. “We’re not a human rights organization, but we know how LGBT travel can raise awareness both locally and globally, and in that way, we can help to make a difference.”