Tourism minister says South Africa is open to the world’s LGBT travellers

Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom

Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom

South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom says that the country is eager to receive LGBT tourists from around the world.

Hanekom spoke at the opening of the first-ever international LGBT business conference to be held in Africa: the 33rd Annual Convention of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) in Cape Town on Thursday.

“This event will help build South Africa as a place that welcomes LGBT travellers,” the minister told the audience; a mix of local and international travel business experts.

He said that South Africa and its inclusive Constitution represent “a dream of a world where you can love who you choose to love”.

Hanekom acknowledged that while LGBT South Africans “are full and equal members of society” the county had “not yet reached our destination… We have changed the laws but we need to change attitudes”.

Addressing the burgeoning LGBT travel market, Hanekom said: “We need you and want you here. We need you because you bring experiences and challenges to our lives.”

He explained that LGBT tourists not only introduced money into the economy but could also play a role in advancing equality.

“We want you to be a light to the millions of LGBT people in our country. So that they know that they are not alone. That they are normal and that they should be able to live their lives without discomfort.”

He went on to say that South Africa represents a common humanity. “This is the place where we all come from, whether we are gay or lesbian or of whatever colour…”

Hanekom also took part in a dialogue with the President/CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, David Scowsil.

During the discussion, the minister was asked how South Africa could influence the continent, where homosexuality is often criminalised.

“What we have to do with the rest of Africa is lead by example, to show that there is nothing to fear and much to gain,” he replied.

Flying the rainbow flag at the Mount Nelson

Flying the rainbow flag at the Mount Nelson

Scowsil agreed.”You have to show the economic impact that is coming from this sector and what [those countries] are foregoing. South Africa has a leadership position, but it will take time.”

At a presentation later in the day, Thomas Roth, President of San Francisco based CMI Community Marketing & Insights, revealed that its latest research found that LGBT people in the US travelled double the amount relative to the population average.

He noted that an increase in the number of same-sex families in the US had also seen a growing need for travel options that are both family and LGBT-friendly.

The IGLTA convention is taking place until 16 April at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel.

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