Tuesday, March 31, 2009

IGLTA Symposium Held In Florianopolis From March 26th to 28th

By Roy Heale
When most people think of a vacation in Brazil then Rio and Sao Paulo are the two destinations that first come to mind. But there is a holiday gem in Brazil that has yet to be discovered by tourists outside of South America---Florionopolis. Creating awareness of alternative vacation destinations is one of the objectives for the IGLTA Symposiums that are held each year. Brazil's Florionopolis is a great example of how these gatherings succeed in creating awareness for a destination.
Sunshine, expansive beaches, delicious seafood, sizzling nightlife and warm hospitality greeted the forty-two delegates at the recent Symposium in Florionopolis, Brazil. The attendees traveled from Australia, Canada, the United States, Peru, Argentina and Brazil to spend four days networking together, meeting the local GLBT business community, and learning about the vacation opportunities on the Santa Catarina Island of Florionopolis. The group included four travel writers from North America and five from South America. The sun shone every day and naturally the Island's approximate 100 beaches were the main focus of attention and enjoyment.
The first day began with a one hour hike into Naufragados Beach which is only accessible by boat or hiking. The rewards at the end of this hike were a spectacular beach, a small fishing village, cafe, and a leisurely swim. Some of us were grateful that we took a boat ride back to where our bus was waiting for us. This was just one of many spectacular white sandy beaches that we visited during our stay. Our tours also included the beach at Praia Mole---the gayest meeting point on the island during summer months---where we enjoyed caipirinhas (a local cocktail with lime juice) courtesy of Bar de Deca on the gay beach. The local media showed up to see how we were enjoying our visit. We also enjoyed afternoon cocktails and local delicacies pool-side at the Pousada Natur Campeche. This resort is located on one of the most popular surfing beaches on the island.
In the heart of the Old City we visited the old customs house, the fish market, boutiques, shops and the local historic points of interest. The town square is a beautiful park where locals meet to play cards or checkers and is the centre of the old town. Part of the land was once the ocean front until it was reclaimed from the sea in the 1930s. Now the town centre is the bus terminal and a hub of activity and markets. The fish market is a great place to see all the different varieties of fsih that are caught daily in the surrounding waters. This prepares you for the local dinner menus when you head out for your evening meal or lunch-time snacks.
A taxi boat ride took us to the small fishing village of Costa da Lagoa for a seafood lunch at Sabor da Costa Restaurant where we feasted on the catch of the day and a spectacular view. This is another fisherman's village that can only be reached by walking or taxi boat rides.
The Saturday trade Marketplace with about thirty exhibitors was attended by approximately 200 travel industry visitors from South America and the local media. For three hours the networking was intense and many new contacts were established for future business opportunities. This was followed by the two hour VI International LGBT Forum where important issues for the future of LGBT Tourism were discussed including a presentation by Tom Nibbio from IGLTA head office.
The final day included a visit to Jurere Internacional Beach and the farewell lunch at Cafe de la Musique. Here there was a surprise performance by the Boi de Mamoa performing a local folklore story acted out by children from the island. This troupe of performers are organized by two gay men. On our way to the luncheon we visited an oyster farm and shack at Santo Antonio de Lisboa where we learnt how the oysters are brought in from the ocean, shucked, cooked and served.
At the end of four days learning about this vacation paradise of Brazil and the local nightlife--- which only seems to begin after midnight---the delegates were unanimous in their gratitude to the organizers for their efforts to make this a successful symposium. Many of us vowed to return for an extended visit as soon as possible.
Obrigado to all the organizers and sponsors for a job well done and the warm welcome to all delegates!

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