Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Interview with Carlos Melia: Introducing the Man

Few weeks ago, we got in touch with Carlos Melia, travel agent & blogger, concierge, hospitality consultant, wedding planner specialized in luxury travel and got totally fascinated by the amount of things he does.
Besides the above mentioned activities, he is also a spokesperson for the LGTNetwork (Luxury Gay Travel Network) and no doubt one of the main connoisseurs of the LGBT travel industry. You will be delighted to know that he was crowned International Mr Gay in 2008.

We could not help contacting him directly to find out more about such an eclectic personality.
"What better than an interview to uncover who Carlos Melia is?", we thought...

Introducing Carlos Melia

10 questions on different topics to get to know him, his activities, his life, his plans and, of course, his travelling.

Let's start!

HC: Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Carlos: Of course with pleasure. Carlos Melia global bespoke travel agent, travel blogger, concierge, hospitality consultant and wedding planner. After over 25 years of mainstream and gay travel experience, I have earned the mote of "Little Marco Polo". Jetsetter, globetrotter and bon vivant, I curate the world of luxury travel and lifestyle by experience, one destination at the time.
Founder of LGTNetwork.org - Luxury Gay Travel Network.

HC: In your "About Us" page you expressly mentioned the LGTNetwork mission, namely "Narrowing the existing gap among mainstream luxury travel and hospitality suppliers and the leading gay travel trade and media.".
Could you please tell us what sort of gap you are referring to, whether it has anything to do with sexual prejudices? How have you managed to fill it?

Carlos: The gap basically is the lack of direct and customized targeted communication and interaction. Over the last 10 years, I have devoted to not only travel around the world and learn about travel products/services by my own experiences, but also to help spread the word among colleagues, travel professionals and conventional/unconventional press.
After many years of doing this, I decided last year to create an organization to gather the top gay travel professionals, press, bloggers, influencers among others and the mainstream luxury travel and hospitality suppliers.
At LGTNetwork we organize educational sessions, networking events, Press Trips and FAM Trips. Our pillars, we promote and cherish are: good-fellowship, networking, communication, experience, education and trust. And I think since we started, we've been doing a great job, with the support of premium products and groups, like Belmond, among many others across and around the world.
The Luxury Gay Travel Network by Carlos Melia

HC: Would you tell us a bit more about the expression "our native tongue might be Gay, but we are fluent in Straight" which we appreciated a lot.

Carlos: Far from the mere concept of a ghetto, my company and all my projects are based on this phrase. I am gay, and over the years I have transitioned from traveling as a full gay traveler and over the years, I have become a mainstream traveler.
Coming from the paradigm and voice of an out spoken gay traveler, I welcome all types of clients, since my experience and knowledge far exceeds sexual orientations. My sites and blogs are about beautiful destinations, amazing hotels and resorts, restaurants and attractions. Tips that can be used by anyone, regardless being gay or straight. I enjoy a world of diversity and tolerance, and this I extend to my work too.

HC: You also are a wedding planner both for straight and gay couples. What is the weirdest ceremony you have organized?

Carlos: Yes… Something I truly enjoy doing. Hmmmmm... Weirdest... Haven’t had yet to be honest.
I have planned a few and all have been on different destinations around the globe, from Argentina to Thailand to New York. But I took part of a very peculiar wedding years ago, organized by Visit Sweden and Visit Stockholm. The couple got married twice, once on the air and then in the arctic circle at the main atrium of the Ice Hotel in Kiruna, north of Sweden. That was quite memorable and unique indeed.

Carlos Melia as a wedding planner

HC: Speaking about Italy, what is the current situation concerning gay travel in our country? Any horror stories?

Carlos: I have traveled myself quite a bit in Italy, all by myself, with my partner and in gay groups.
I have to say that I have never experienced any horror stories. On the contrary. Last trip we did with my partner included Rome, Florence and Venice. It was beyond romantic and enjoyable. We stayed at Villa San Michele in Fiesole and at the iconic Cipriani in Venice.
Recently I was also in Italy, invited by the Tourism Office of Puglia. A gay group of tour operators and press from the US and UK, we spent a week covering all different destinations and I fell in love with the destination, particularly with Gallipoli, Lecce and Fasano.

Carlos Melia in Puglia  and his cooking class with Bruna

HC: What are your top 5 favourite places in Italy?

Carlos: Ha well there you go….. Firenze, Sicily, Puglia, Portofino, Venice. I still have to visit the Amalfi Coast, so that is still pending for me, and a great reason to return.

HC: What is the journey that you have not yet taken?

Carlos: Mongolia. I am dying to go there. It’s been on my Travel Bucket List now for over 15 years. Something tells me I need to go.

HC: How old were you when you had your first trip and where was it?

Carlos: Oh…. right before and after being born ha ha ha … My father is a commercial pilot, so planes and traveling was a regular thing for us. Now if you want to know about the first trip that left a mark on me and changed my travel habits…. well that was the first time I visited Asia, and I am talking about over 20 years ago. I am native from Buenos Aires, Argentina. So this for me meant like embarking on a journey to the stars ha ha ha …. It took me almost two days to get there, and once in Bangkok, I mean that Bangkok, not the one you see now… well was like changing the chip in my head, all I knew, or thought I knew, and believed on changed forever. I have returned to Thailand over and over and over again….. Almost once every year.

Carlos Melia in Thailand

HC: Have you ever experienced any inconveniences in countries that are known to have particularly conservative viewpoints?

Carlos: I lived in many places around the world.
One of them was Iran. I was based for work in Teheran. I mean, if you mean conservative regarding gay rights, couldn’t be any more inconvenient. I will not advocate in favor nor against it, since I know many fellow members of our community do suffer and experience a very harsh reality on daily basis, but it was never my experience. Through my blog, I have become very public, and my GPS is something that anyone can have access, if they follow me.
Once I was about to visit Dubai, and before arrival my social network and blog were hacked, and I received some messages discouraging me to visit. Other than that never.

HC: What is the best dish you ever tasted?

Carlos: My Mom’s homemade cooking, each time I go to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to visit my parents. There is no better dish than the one that transports you to a happy childhood full of flavors, aromas and emotive memories.

We like the idea to conclude the interview with a question to himself ;)
So we imagine Carlos on a plane, coming back from his last trip, wondering "Where will I go next?" and thinking "... Don’t know, but I am happy to find out... :-)".

Carlos Melia on the plane thinking about his next trip

Thank you so much for the inspiration, Carlos.

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