Last Wednesday, Italy’s LGBTQ+ community was dealt a blow when the Italian Upper House Senate brought down a bill intended to make violence against women and LGBTQ+ people a hate crime (DDL Zan). While the decision may come as a shock to many in the international community, for Queervadis CEO Alessio Virgili, it came as a signal only to further his work and mission to make Italy a more open and welcoming place for the international LGBTQ+ community. “As president of the Italian Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (AITGL),” he says in a statement translated by Queervadis, “I’m compelled, one more time, to defend my country in international contests, while I see years and years of investments, devoted to showcase Italy as an inclusive destination, burn down.”
Virgili is also the president of the Milan Committee for the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) upcoming convention in 2022, at which Milan will host thousands of international travel leaders devoted to making the world a more welcoming place for queer travelers. “After the pandemic tragedy, the whole world is asking for safety, not just in terms of health. Lots of international travel boards, cultural centers, markets and even diplomats have been striving to feature Italy as an inclusive and welcoming country. Sadly, the Senate’s applause when blocking the bill, has been heard around the world. Immediate consequences have turned out, both in terms of deep humiliation for the entire LGBTQ+ community and of our country’s accountability.” Italy, thanks in part to Virgili’s efforts, has been investing to attract an important and high-spending target, which includes LGBTQ+ travelers, who he says “want to visit a safe, inclusive, welcoming, modern and trendy destination.”
On the Equal Index portal, which states the quality and level of civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community in the world, Virgili notes that “we are amongst those few countries in Europe which do not protect against LGBTQ+ harassment. We are now risking to slip even backward: as a homophobic attack cannot be reduced to ‘futile reasons’, this bill was a concrete and strong cultural message against that interpretation.”
However, Virgili is not giving up the fight anytime soon. “Once again,” he says, “Our scientific committee in AITGL, which includes members from top Italian universities and business associations, will have to roll its sleeves up, to convince the world that we are not Barbarians. We have been working for years in order to bring the most important LGBTQ+ travel convention in the world, the IGLTA Convention, to Milan, and now the feeling is that it will be extremely difficult to attract investments and businesses.”
While the Upper House’s decision will generate consequences on Italy’s economy and tourism, Queervadis and Virgili continue to stand with Italy’s LGBTQ+ community, choosing instead to build a future Italy where LGBTQ+ citizens, visitors, and everyone is treated equally.