Traveling while out has become the norm for our community – a dramatic change for those of us who remember how constricting it felt to travel in the closet. LGBT executives within the travel industry helped create this climate of welcome and acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers. This week, we continue our series of interviews with LGBT travel industry leaders and straight allies working for inclusivity.
With over a quarter of a decade of travel industry experience, Vicky Garcia serves as COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative. Viking Cruises recognized her cruising leadership role in 2014, honoring her with the role of godmother of their European long ship Viking Magni. We recently asked Vicky to share her expert insights into the travel industry with us.
You began your career in the travel industry in 1987. What attracted you to this industry and what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
My family is in the not-so-fun insurance & accounting industries, so travel was really appealing. As a family, we used to cruise and I love travel, great food and drinks, which is all part of the travel experience.
At what point did you feel comfortable being out as a lesbian in your career and what changes – either within yourself, or in the larger political and corporate worlds – made it possible for you to be out?
I realized that the more open I was, the more REAL I was…the more that people accepted me and loved the fact that I am who I am. I was not in their face, but was natural…I didn’t overthink it! They appreciated my sincerity about it.
Since our membership is made up of LGBT cruise enthusiasts, in what ways do you think the cruise industry could improve their outreach to LGBT travelers?
Many cruise lines and travel companies want to attract the LGBT traveler and some of them are doing it right and really appealing to all LGBT travelers. Just like all travelers, we have a variety of style preferences and vacation dreams – not everyone wants to be on an “all-gay” trip, mostly, we just want to be accepted and safe. Celebrity Cruises does a great job at training its team to be welcoming, accommodating and inclusive to all travelers, which is all we really need.
How do you use your position and influence to increase LGBT visibility in travel – both for LGBT travel industry employees and for LGBT people planning trips?
I am who I am. I work very hard and do a lot of fundraising. I give back to the community a lot – mainly focusing on cancer research and LGBT issues. I always stay true to who I am and do not shy away from sharing that I am a local lesbian, married to my wife Carol who I’ve been with for 15 years…and counting!
When it comes to cruise travel, what are the reasons you believe people should use a travel agent?
Using a travel agent is the best way book any vacation – they provide you with the service from the beginning throughout your trip for no additional cost. They are your professional advisor, as you’d use for your financial planning, investments and retirement planning. It’s really important to have an advocate helping you throughout your journey.
What are your personal favorite cruise destinations and why?
There are so many different places to go on a cruise, so it depends. Last summer, I took my extended family to Greece and had a great time with my niece and nephew – I love to see places through their eyes. I am an official PANK – Professional Aunt, No Kids, so it’s safe to say I spoil them. Also, since we live in South Florida, getting away for a quick Caribbean cruise is always a convenient option.
You are a self-proclaimed ‘Gadget Girl.’ What one device or app can you not do without when you travel?
Facebook on my iPhone for sure! I am really loving Facebook Live and recently used it a lot during a big trip to Europe. It’s a great way for people to share their travels, instantly showcase destinations and stay connected around the world.