|(Image: The Economist)|
OPINION - Gay Market News
April 27, 2012
If you would like Out Now to help you take your marketing to the leading-edge of sales results, please do get in touch.--Topics: IGLTA. International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. Ian Johnson. John Tanzella. Darren Cooper. Pablo De Luca. Gustavo Noguera. GNetwork360.
Poor Ethics Cast A Shadow Over IGLTA
Years ago I learned a lesson that has stood Out Now in good stead over the years. I was reading an article from an Ethics Center that asked - 'What are ethics'? It suggested that your own personal test of what is 'ethical' conduct should be measured by how you would feel if your own actions became public - if for example the decisions you took this week were on the front of next week's newspaper.
How would you feel then about the decisions you took? If you would be comfortable with others learning of them, then you can be said to have made an ethical decision. If however, you would be uncomfortable that your decisions became public knowledge then maybe you need to rethink your decision as it is one that is likely going to fall outside your own sense of ethics - and the principles of ethics as perceived by those who read about what you did.
Unfortunately, the management and Board of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) has just stepped into a position which - when others consider the decisions taken - calls into question at the very least the ethics of one of the new members of their Board.
In context, the situation that brings the organization to this point is one that sadly reflects very poorly upon the current direction of the IGLTA - and has even led some to now question the future of the organization.
Shame For IGLTA
It is often said that we are judged by the company that we keep.
If that is true then April 15, 2012 should be marked as a sad day for members of the International Gay and Lesbian TraveI Association.
The IGLTA has found itself mired in controversy in recent times.
During the past twelve months three Board members (out of a total of just eight) resigned. One of these resigned just this past February - over an alleged failure by the Board to uphold its own Professional Code of Conduct. A great loss was IGLTA's Director of Global Business Development, a highly regarded professional who was much admired in the global tourism industry, and was the longest serving staff member - before he chose to leave the organization last October. This followed an already high level of staff departures for a small organization in the months before that.
In recent weeks there have been allegations of attempts by IGLTA's management to shut down discussions in social media about the organization trying to charge its own members $95 for a free report from the UNWTO (which quotes data from Out Now's groundbreaking Global LGBT2020 Study). That report is available for free online - but when some IGLTA personnel linked to the free report using social media, they were reportedly instructed by IGLTA management to remove the link.
The IGLTA probably hoped to have a good news week on their hands with the launch of a redesign of their website, however comments about the new site suggest users are finding the new layout causes confusion about who the website is actually aimed at - which doesn't help the important goal of trying to maximize the opportunities IGLTA members have to connect with other members to increase business.
Instead though, the latest news out of the IGLTA last week was the election to the IGLTA Board of an Argentinean 'businessman' - one who has been the subject of theft allegations - along with various other allegations of professional misconduct.
Don't Lie To Me Argentina
In a recent issue of The Economist appeared the headline - 'Don't Lie To Me Argentina'- when, for the first time ever, it was decided the magazine would no longer cover the Argentina government's own published statistics - as the 'official' data put out by them was considered to simply not be credible.
Put simply, The Economist thought the Argentineans were lying. This might perhaps suggest a wider problem with a culturally roughshod approach when it comes to business ethics - something Out Now (publishers of Gay Market News) witnessed in the questionable conduct of a business headed by the newly elected IGLTA Board member from Argentina - Mr Pablo De Luca.
Mr De Luca - who runs an outfit called GNetwork360 - was involved in a number of thefts of Out Now property in 2010 and 2011, including research data, monies owed and intellectual property.
Details have been posted in full online - and were made available to the IGLTA Board in 2011 - but if you need a simple to understand 'reality check' about the character in question, it is quick and easy to just compare this text written by Out Now for a seminar presented by Out Now's CEO at a GNetwork360 event in 2010 with identically worded text which was later submitted by Mr De Luca as his company's own work for a presentation he proposed to make in 2011 (screenshot taken 25 August 2011).
Stealing another business's written work might at first seem trivial to some perhaps, but stop and think what it says about the character of an individual in business - one who thinks this is an acceptable way to conduct themselves in business.
Theft and lack of business ethics are dangerous business habits to try to deal with. That possibly may not augur so well then for the immediate future of IGLTA's stewardship under Mr De Luca's control as their latest Board member.
The position of IGLTA management
Ian Johnson - CEO of Out Now - had a conversation with John Tanzella - CEO of IGLTA - about these theft issues related to GNetwork360 when the two met at the March 2012 ITB convention in Berlin.
Out Now, which had been a member of IGLTA, lodged an official complaint asking the IGLTA Board to uphold their own Professional Code of Conduct - which every member agrees to abide by - in relation to numerous documented breaches of the Code by Mr De Luca and his related business entities.
Mr Tanzella's reply to Mr. Johnson asked why this matter was even brought to the attention of the IGLTA in the first place: "I don't understand why you would bring this dispute to the IGLTA? Why not pursue it through the courts?"
Mr Johnson replied: "Because your IGLTA Professional Code of Conduct invited me as an IGLTA member to complain to the Board over exactly this kind of conduct. There is no pre-requisite for a legal judgment before the Code is meant to be applied. The Board ought to have convened a hearing of these issues as is expressly meant to happen under your Association's By-Laws." Mr Johnson went on to say: "Your problem John is not really with me, or even with GNetwork360 - your real problem is with your own Code of Conduct. You tell members they are protected when they pay their annual dues to become IGLTA members but if a member asks you to uphold ethics violations by another member, it is my experience that you fail to do so. You really ought not publish those supposed protections of the Code of Conduct if, when asked, you and your Board show you are willing to fail to follow due process as set down in your own rules."
Mr Tanzella then asked: "I don't understand why didn't you just talk with me about this?"
Mr Johnson's response was telling: "Because when the IGLTA Board decided not to uphold the Professional Code of Conduct violations committed by GNetwork360, your Association's only response was to have your lawyers send a letter warning Out Now from exercising any right of reply to you, your staff or the Board. We were threatened with legal costs if we dared question the Board's decision. It was a little difficult then to talk with you about any of this, since we were expressly told we were not to do so. Surely you can see that John?"
Out Now has now reached the decision - as a result of what has now become an ongoing litany of poor professional practices on the part of IGLTA's management and its Board - that this is no longer a trade Association we can afford to associate our business with.
The recent election of Mr De Luca to the Board of IGLTA serves simply to reinforce the wisdom of that decision.
Unfortunately IGLTA is no longer a trade association with the kind of approach to professional ethics that Out Now requires of it if we are to be members.
Accordingly we have not renewed our membership in 2012 and do not see it as likely that we would again choose to be members of this organization.
Sadly for IGLTA, it is not just Out Now with firsthand experience of questionable business practices at the hands of Mr De Luca and his business interests.
Gay Market News spoke to a number of LGBT business owners in the Latin America region who provided their own firsthand accounts of what they claim are business practices that veer far from those usually accepted in the practice of global business.
Various actions of Mr De Luca and his associated businesses - GNetwork360 and GMaps360 - over recent years have been strongly criticized by those Gay Market News spoke with.
One recent example cited was a failed gay boat cruise that Mr De Luca and his business were responsible for marketing that eventually sailed with no more than a handful of tickets sold to LGBT travelers. This venture was reported as receiving government funds from the Argentinian Tourism Ministry but it reportedly left the other partners in the venture out-of-pocket. These actions are typical of the 'business practice' that we have heard stories of regarding Mr De Luca and GNetwork360.
Those IGLTA members - and former members - from Latin America that Gay Market News spoke with reacted universally with disappointment at Mr De Luca's standing for election to the IGLTA Board. It is a sentiment that Out Now Consulting echoes.
"Is it any surprise that the IGLTA is losing the support of its members when the Board and management's actions show that these members can no longer be certain the IGLTA will hold up its own published code of ethics," added Darren Cooper, Senior Out Now Consultant and former IGLTA Board member.
This comment from a lesbian business woman who said she used to be a member summed up the essence of much of the feedback we were given:
"The IGLTA downhill spiral (death roll?) goes agonizingly on. Wish their directions were ones I found supportable but bad decision compounded upon bad decision is now simply too much to be bothered with."
There have also been questions raised about the bona fides of a supposed not-for-profit organization called Argentina's Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce headed by Mr De Luca and his life and business partner Gustavo Noguera. Questions include allegations made that this Argentinean 'association' holds no regular meetings, has no regular elections for officeholders and in large part functions as a means to channel funds from the Argentina Tourism Ministry into the for-profit businesses run by Mr De Luca and Mr Noguera.
All of which seems rather 'smelly' to the say the least.
With practices like these surrounding Mr De Luca from Argentina, the IGLTA might have been wise to have taken a leaf from the pages of The Economist in this matter and considered whether being governed by a person with such questioned 'form' is a smart move for a travel trade association so completely reliant upon the goodwill of its own members - each of whom pays not insubstantial amounts of money as annual dues.
The members certainly deserve better than the likes of Mr De Luca on the Board. But if any IGLTA members hope they might have significant recourse to the Board on this under the organization's Professional Code of Conduct, sadly Out Now's own experience in this regard suggests they may want to think again.
At a time when the IGLTA really needed to step up to try to recover from its recent UNWTO report fiasco - and following tepid user response to their website redesign - the appointment of Mr De Luca to their Board does not look likely to help them.
Such a shame for IGLTA to find itself keeping what so many appear to consider to be such poor company.
If you want to get your LGBT marketing and gay travel market research knowledge policies up to speed to include the latest Out Now Global LGBT market research, or learn more about social media and other leading-edge gay marketing strategies, get in touch with the recognized market leaders Out Now.
Out Now™ has been involved in lesbian and gay marketing research, corporate strategy and LGBT community development since 1992 -- when the company was first established in Australia.
The agency has grown to now include specialist LGBT consultants working with Out Now in markets across the world.
AdWeek referred to one of Out Now's gay advertising campaigns as "the year's most talked about tourism ads." Out Now Consulting is a leading global gay marketing specialist agency, founded in 1992. Clients include Barclays, IBM, Toyota, Citibank, German National Tourist Office, Visit Britain, Lufthansa and Time Inc. Magazines. Out Now won the "Outstanding Interactive" category in New York at the 'Images in Advertising' awards for an online campaign for their client Lufthansa.
"Out Now", "OutNow" and all related words and logos are trademarks of Out Now, Lage Nieuwstraat, 2512 VX Netherlands. All rights reserved - for the world - by Out Now. Any unauthorised use is prohibited.
To learn how to get lesbian and gay marketing strategy right -- rely on gay marketing expert strategic advice from Out Now -- the leading experienced global strategic gay marketing, research and communications agency.