AMB. JAMES COSTOS SPEAKS AT THE INTERNATIONAL GAY & LESBIAN TRAVEL CONVENTION

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EDITOR’S BLOG: GAY PRIDE AND AMB. COSTOS

Madrid Gay Pride Week, held this year between 2 and 6 July, is over, leaving a pleasant aftertaste and a sense of pride for living in a city whose second name is Encompassing Open Arms. Before the Week, the Spanish Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual and Bisexual Federation (FELGTB) estimated that over 2 million people from Spain and outside would gather in Madrid – with the legendary barrio of Chueca as the epicenter – and the capital, hard hit by the lingering economic catastrophe, would gain some €110 million from the festivities.

Whatever the final tally, Madrid Orgullo (Madrid Pride) has become Spain’s biggest street party. And that’s saying tons of a country that goes from one fiesta to another, hardly pausing for breath in between.

Save a few exceptions, Orgullo has long been taken by the Madrileños, regardless of their sexual identities, as their very own. They’re delighted that the Orgullo is Europe’s biggest Gay Pride celebration; that in 2007 Europride, the Official European Pride Festival, was held in their city and was declared by the president of the European Pride Organizers Association the “best Europride in history”; that in 2009, and again in 2010, Madrid Orgullo was voted the Best Annual Gay Destination by MTV’s Tripout Gay Travel Awards; and most important so far, that Madrid will be hosting World Pride in 2017.

That’s more than enough reason why Guidepost has assigned some of its trusty staff to put their eye-witness account of the Orgullo 2014 on paper – so to speak, that is, now that practically nobody ever uses paper for writing!

While we wait for those stories, which will be in before you know it, we want to share with our readers around the world what the marvelously candid U.S. Ambassador to Spain James Costos has said about the economy, gay rights and diplomacy in a speech at the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) Annual Convention.

It’s a captivatingly elucidating read. Enjoy!

 

 

 

The Ambassador’s Speech

Spain is at the top of the list of the 40 countries most accepting of LGBT individuals

 

. . . It was 7 years ago when my partner, Michael Smith, and I came to Spain for the very first time. The images of that trip are seared into my memory— Spain’s bright blue sky, the kindness and warmth of the Spanish people, the world-class art and cultural institutions, and the diversity of people from different traditions living side-by-side for centuries. Drawn by all of these exhilarating experiences, we fell in love with Spain and we returned again and again over the years, crisscrossing the country from Seville, to Valencia, to Barcelona, and returned quite frequently to beautiful and stunning Mallorca. And so you can imagine how thrilled—and humbled—I was when President Obama asked me to be the U.S. Ambassador to this beautiful and amazing country.

I was nominated during a very challenging economic time here. Spain’s economy has undergone some huge difficulties and is beginning to recover, but even so, we know that there are still enormous challenges that lie ahead. So we are looking to the future now, and glad to see the Spanish government has implemented reforms to boost economic growth and create jobs.
And I know they are very focused on the travel and tourism sector to help with the recovery. These moves send the right messages to potential investors, and help inject new confidence,
hope and interest in Spain.

. . . That’s why I came here today to emphasize that we think Spain’s large and fast-growing travel and tourism industry is absolutely key to Spain’s economic future. The numbers tell the story. According to FITUR [International Tourism Fair]:

-Spain is the world’s 3rd most popular tourist destination. People from all over the world want to come here, for so many compelling reasons.

-LGBT tourism worldwide is valued at $185 billion per year, about 10% of total international tourism — that’s higher than total tourism to all of China ($120 billion).

-The annual growth of LGBT tourism is about 10%— that’s nearly triple the growth rate of tourism in general.
Betting on LGBT tourism generates a good return on investment. LGBT clients often have more disposable income, travel more often, and look for welcoming destinations. Spain is very well-positioned to attract these travelers. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, Spain is at the top of the list of the 40 countries most accepting of LGBT individuals. And speaking from personal experience, I totally agree!

However, to tourists from all walks of life, I’d like to say, “Come to Spain! It is a magical place to visit unlike any other country in the world.” And to the travel and tourism professionals, my message is clear: “Invest in Spain and capitalize on this huge market opportunity.”

. . . Let me close by saying that I am proud to serve as one of the five gay ambassadors chosen by President Obama. By doing so, he sent a clear message to the world that he is committed to full equality for LGBT people, in both words and deeds. In his Inaugural Address on Jan. 21, 2013, President Obama drew a straight line from the civil rights fights based on race and gender to the current struggle for marriage equality. He said:

 “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law…for if we are truly created equal…then surely the love we commit to one another MUST be equal as well.”

Advocating for human rights of LGBT people around the world is part of American foreign policy. For some people, this looks like something new — but really it’s the continuation of a
long American tradition of fighting for freedom, democracy, and human rights.

Thank you very much, good luck and enjoy your time in Spain!!!

IGLTA Annual Convention
Hotel Meliá Castilla, Madrid
8 May 2014

 

License: CC-BY 2.0

La Embajada de EEUU en España adelantó la celebración del Día Internacional contra la Homofobia y la Transfobia con un encuentro organizado junto a las organizaciones Lesworking, Diversity Consulting y la Cámara de Comercio LGTB en España DiverSpain. El evento tuvo lugar en el American Space Madrid. La Consejera de Diplomacia Pública, Kate M. Byrnes reforzó con su participación el compromiso del Gobierno de EE UU en la promoción de los derechos humanos, incluidos los del colectivo LGTB.

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Featured image: US flag/cloudbuilding, CC BY2.0; Rainbow flag/Quapan, CC BY2.0; Spanish flag/Nathan Hughes Hamilton, CC BY2.0