India to turn hottest destination for gay, lesbian tourists

India to turn hottest destination for gay, lesbian tourists

A section of the tourism industry hopes to benefit from visits by homosexual tourists, a market which is yet to be exploited in India, said travel experts at the 18th South Asia Travel and Tour Expo (SATTE) Friday.

Gay and Lesbian Tourism was largely discussed at a session in SATTE, organised under the banner of ITB Berlin.

Director of Indjapink, the first and only gay travel boutique for gay vacations, Sanjay Malhotra claimed that after Delhi High Court rule in favour of homosexuals, the tourism industry in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Tourists (LGBT) has increased manifold.
On July 2, 2009, the Delhi High Court had ruled in favour of scrapping Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalises sexual acts between consenting adults of the same gender.

"Gay men usually come in groups from Western Europe, United States and Canada and their favourite destination is Kerala, Rajasthan and Varanasi," Malhotra said.
He also said two years ago gay men and lesbians have been bypassing India for other countries like Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia but now things are changing and stated that in three years India will become the hottest destination for gays and lesbians.
Indjapink organises vacation and tour programmes for gays and this year they are looking to cater lesbians.

"Gays or lesbians are the biggest spender of lifestyle products. They have maximum disposable incomes as they come from DINK (Double Income, No Kids) group. So they are recession proof and they are vacation savvy," Thomas Boemkes, managing director, Tom On Tour, a portal for gay travellers and friends.

According to Rika Jean Francois, sales director - South Asia and Pacific, ITB - Berlin one of the panel member in the discussion informed that India is still perceived as a conservative society, but it has all the capacity to become a hottest destinations for gay and lesbian markets.

"After the High Court tourism industry in India is exploring the gay and lesbian market and many see this as a start, but there are more challenges which should be addressed," Malhotra said.

He also further stated that one of the biggest challenges Indian market is the heightening insensitivity of the hospitality industry in many luxury hotels.

"Although New Delhi has a string of luxury hotels only one or two is gay friendly. For example, in a hotel despite informing that a group of tourists is gay, the front desk staff at certain hotels allotted rooms with separate single beds," he added.
He also said when a gay couple demand candle light or flower petals in the bedrooms, hotels often refuse.

"As India has different tourist spots which are rich in culture and architecture, museum, monuments and markets it would easily attract the LGBT communities, but Indian tourism industry should know how to capitalise on this by avaialing special packages and segments for the LGBT commuity," Malhotra added.

To address these issues Malhotra said, "Indiajpink is planning to organise workshops with string of hotels in various cities. The workshop would involve drivers, housekeepers, doormen and bartenders to ensure hassle-free holidays for the LGBT clients."

A total of 38 countries are participating in the SATTE exhibition that started Friday in Pragati Maidan, which has stalls from 25 states of India.

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