We Travel For Women+: LoAnn Halden, IGLTA
Live from: London, U.K.
I’m a ‘career queer,’ having worked in LGBTQ+ media, first as a journalist and now in public relations, for 27 years. As an extroverted introvert, I’m perceived as very social, but love being behind the scenes, writing, reading, hiking, immersing myself in nature while traveling.
Thanks to marrying a Brit, I’m based in London, U.K.. As VP-Communications for IGLTA, I promote LGBTQ+ welcoming travel globally through online content, interviews, and events.
Travel is in my DNA. My grandfather flew biplanes with Charles Lindbergh, and my mother left teaching after one year to work for TWA. In the early 2000s, my passion for travel and my journalism degree came together, and I started doing freelance travel writing, mostly LGBTQ+.
In my early days on LGBTQ+ press FAMs, I was often the only lesbian in the mix, and it was always a pleasant shock if there were two or three of us. Destinations struggled to include the lesbian community in their itineraries. Now, at IGLTA, I’m on the other side, and often consult with destinations on press hosting. The CVBs in our network really strive to include more diverse media in their groups. That said, there are always more offerings catering specifically to gay men than queer women/transgender/nonbinary travelers.
Because I’ve worked in LGBTQ+ spaces my entire career, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a level of support that many queer women do not. But I still long for more representation, particularly at the executive/CEO level of the travel industry. There are many women in tourism, but the number in those top seats is still far too small and becomes miniscule when we start talking about those who don’t tick the white, cisgender, and heterosexual boxes.
When I work on the speaker lineup for our Global Convention, it’s always a challenge to find lesbian tourism leaders, especially from the C-suite of the corporate travel world. Percentage-wise we have more male attendees as well, though we’re making inroads. Through our IGLTA Foundation Fellowship program we’re finding and supporting some amazing women entrepreneurs and that gives me great hope for the future.
The L in IGLTA was not very visible when I joined the organization in 2009 as the only woman on the staff. Now, I’m joined on the team by women from Colombia, the U.S., and South Africa, and the network of women in business who are part of the IGLTA global membership community has grown as well. We used to gather for drinks one night during our Global Convention as a way of having our own time to network and bond. With the association’s support, it evolved into a Women in Leadership spotlight within the convention that went from a breakout session to having an inspirational lesbian leader on the main stage. That program will continue to expand with the support of the IGLTA Foundation, creating more opportunities for business women. Stay tuned!
The contributions of women throughout history have often been buried, but I feel in recent years there’s been a greater push to tell those stories. And I love it! Women’s history month is inspiring, but I’m all for year-round celebration of the women who came before us and paved the way for so many of us to live more freely and come closer to equality.
Everyone who produces travel content, creates tourism event programming, or has the power to uplift women through mentorship, career training, or access to board seats and other decision-making roles should be intentional about bringing more women’s voices into the mix, especially those from marginalized communities. The status quo doesn’t change without action and allyship.