Girlports.com - Lesbian Travel website
By Judy Scott
Lesbians who love to travel, solo or with a partner, will be happy to know there's a terrific travel guide online website - tailored especially to us. It's called Girlports.com.
We asked founder Tanya Churchmuch of Montreal for some details and here is the crux of the interview:
Dorothy's Closet: How and when did Girlports come to be? Who had the original idea? What did you do before you began this business?
Tanya: I came up with the idea for Girlports back in August, 2006 during the Outgames here in Montreal. I'd always felt like there had been a lack of travel information for lesbians and here I was, walking around Montreal's gay village with women from all around the world. It just popped into my head that this would be a great idea. I went home and spoke to my girlfriend about it and she was all for it. Right away she made me some business cards and I went out and spoke with about 200 women who were in town for the OutGames, asking them what they thought of the Girlports idea and what kinds of information they'd like to see on such a site.
Before I launched Girlports I worked for many years as a television journalist and news anchor, including nine years at Global television in Montreal.
DC: How long have you been in operation? What exactly is your target market?
Tanya: I launched Girlports in October, 2007, but it took more than a year to get the site online. As to a target market, basically I'm trying to make this for all lesbians who travel. For any destination I make an effort to provide information for the interests of various lesbians, be they younger, older, from various ethnic communities, hipsters or sporty.
DC: How many people work in your office? Where is it located?
Tanya: Right now it's just me with a woman working part-time and the assistance of my girlfriend who is an interactive media consultant.
DC: How do you research lesbian-friendly locales?
Tanya: The same way any other travel journalist does, by visiting them. I always do a lot of background research before I arrive so I have a general idea of what I'll discover, but it's really the on-site visit that is most important.
DC: What are some of the most popular destinations?
Tanya: People always want to know about the major cities, be it L.A., San Francisco, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris or London.
DC: How many agents do you have? How has the response been - do you get clients from mostly your area or all over the world?
Tanya: Girlports is not a travel agency, the site only provides travel information... a bit like a travel magazine, but online, so I don't have any agents. Over the past month I had visitors from 95 countries check out the site from as far away as Iraq and Bahrain.
DC: What advice would you give to solo travellers and/or couples, regarding destinations, what to take, what to beware of, etc. Is there a standard 'package' of information you give them, geared to the lesbian market?
Tanya: I think the advice I'd give is to always learn as much as you can about a destination before you arrive there. It's always good to know the basics and then go with the flow when you arrive. Safety and security are always common sense, but some people are more worried about it than others.
I definitely wouldn't hold hands with my girlfriend in Jamaica, but I'd have no worries doing it in Berlin. They are different destinations with different mentalities and learning about a city before arriving is imperative.
DC: Anything else you'd like to add?
Tanya: I'd just like to mention that it is so important for lesbian travelers to learn about lesbian communities elsewhere and to support lesbian-owned and operated establishments, no matter where you are. When I take a vacation, I'm not looking to go "all lesbian, all the time," but I think it's amazing to see how lesbian communities operate around the world.
We all share some common threads, but seeing what is happening in Bangkok, compared to Berlin, then compared to Los Angeles is just amazing. All the same, lesbian businesses always face the challenge of being successful, which is why I always make an effort to check out restaurants or stores that I know are lesbian owned or operated. It's only by supporting lesbian communities, no matter where they are, that they will thrive. Lesbians often complain about a lack of lesbian bars or restaurants, but the only way they'll exist is if you and I go to them and spend our money there.
President & Publisher, Girlports.com