Ecuador is wooing LGBTQI travelers to the South American destination home to the Galápagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ecuador’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce launched Proud Destinations – LGBTIQ + Ecuador Tourism, a queer travel initiative to encourage travel within the South American country and internationally, last week.

Ecuadorian tourism and hospitality businesses came together in person to discuss promoting Ecuador as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex-friendly destination in preparation of the South American country reopening its borders to travelers at the Hilton Colon Hotel in Quito, Salón Dorado May 11.

The travel and hospitality industry leaders followed COVID-19 safety protocols for the event, which was also livestreamed on Facebook Live through the chamber and Proud Destination’s Facebook pages and Zoom, according to the chamber’s May 11 press release.

Travel has been halted for more than a year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, a global pandemic March 11, 2020.

The virus has taken 3,432,103 lives around the world as of May 20, according to Worldometers.com.

The event opened with a performance by drag performer Kruz Veneno.

Chamber Chief Executive Officer Diane Rodríguez outlined Proud Destination’s goals to help Ecuador’s tourism industry compete in the $219 billion LGBTQI travel market.

  • The initiative, which is a part of the chamber, will form a network of LGBTQI-friendly Ecuadorian destinations, hotels, travel agencies, cruises, and other travel and hospitality businesses interested in attracting queer travelers.
  • Certify member companies as LGBTQI culturally sensitive through the Friendly Be ™ Certification program.
  • A report measuring a destination’s LGBTQI-friendliness based on Ecuadorian and international queer tourist’s evaluations and the number of certifications on record at the Decentralized Autonomous Governments or local mayor’s offices will be produced.

Chamber member Johana Rivadeneira, a business developer at the Andean Travel Company, presented a talk, “Experience of Tourism in the Midst of COVID19.”

Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism director of market intelligence Juan Paredes spoke about welcoming Proud Destinations to work with the ministry.

LGBT Chambers of Argentina Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and the United States congratulated Ecuador’s LGBTQI travel initiative and wished it luck.

The event closed with a performance by transgender Ecuadorian folk group Ñuca Trans.

As the world is about enter another summer travel season, some countries are getting the virus under control due to several effective vaccines while others, like Brazil, France, and India spiral out of control.

Ecuador currently ranks 46th in the world with COVID-19 cases. The U.S. State Department listed the South American country as a “do not travel,” April 20.

According to the most recent numbers, prior to the pandemic, Ecuador welcomed more than 2.1 million international visitors in 2019, according to the World Bank. International travelers contributed $4 billion to the South American country’s economy in 2019, reported Statista.com.

Tourism and hospitality are attempting to begin to recover from the crippling economic blow the pandemic delt the industries around the world.

The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association’s most recent COVID-19 survey released last week indicated that LGBTQI travelers are booking their vacations. The survey found that 73% of queer travelers globally plan to take a major vacation before the end of 2021 and 80% are passport holders. Nearly one quarter (23%) of respondents said they booked their vacations before the end of April.

US (77%) and European respondents (82%) plan to take a major vacation before the end of 2021 and 85% of US and 87% EU travelers are passport holders. Nearly 30% of American and 20% of EU travelers booked their vacations in April, according to the US and EU survey results.

IGLTA surveyed 6,324 LGBTQ individuals in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese in March 26 through April 9. There were 2,712 US respondents and 693 EU respondents.

Ecuador is best known for the Galápagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago off the country’s coast in the Pacific Ocean that is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and within the northwestern part of the Amazon rainforest and Andean highlands.

The small country has made significant progress protecting LGBTQI rights during the past 23 years with much of the progress happening within the last decade.

Ecuador is one of only five countries in the world that guarantees equal rights for all Ecuadorians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity in its constitution since 1998. Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa appointed Carina Vance Mafla, a feminist lesbian, as director of the Ministry of Health in 2012. She immediately went to war shutting down so-called conversion therapy clinics masquerading as alcohol and drug rehab centers. Equador banned conversion therapy in 2014.

Two years later, the country passed its Gender Identity Law granting transgender people the right to legally change their names on government issued documents solely based on self-determination.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2019.

Ecuador has an estimated population of 1 million LGBTQI citizens with the purchasing power of $7 billion, according to a 2015 study conducted by LGBT Capital, the most recent data available, according to the release.

Globally, the LGBTQI travel market alone has an estimated $219 billion spending power, according to OutNow Consulting’s 2018 report.

The new LGBTQI travel initiative is endorsed by international organizations representatives, Erasmo Sanchez of the Global Division of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and Clovis Casemiro of the IGLTA.

The LGBT Chamber of Commerce Ecuador was formed in 2016 and officially received its government recognition from the Ministry of Industries, known today as the Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries, in 2018. The chamber’s goal is to promote and consolidate LGBTQI and queer-friendly companies and small businesses.

Watch the Ecuadorian Proud Destination launch event in Spanish (English is not available):

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Originally published by Girls That Roam.

Book your next Intrepid women-only vacation with Girls That Roam Travel. Contact Heather Cassell at Girls That Roam Travel at 415-517-7239 or at trips@girlsthatroam.com.

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