Wednesday, June 17, 2009

India woos gay tourists

Rajesh Ahuja, Hindustan Times

Email Author

New Delhi, June 17, 2009

First Published: 14:00 IST(17/6/2009)

Last Updated: 15:42 IST(17/6/2009)

India woos gay tourists

The already throbbing closet may just break open with this piece of news. Enthused by the success of gay nights at pubs, the Queer Pride Parade  last year and thematic art festivals across the country, tour agencies are offering custom-made tours for the ultimate gay travel experience.

Indjapink puts together packages for gay men only. The agency, based in Lajpat Nagar, organises gay tours for singles and couples throughout the year. “We have at least 4-5 foreign clients every month, though domestic clients are relatively few,” says the director of the company, identifying himself only as ‘Malhotra’. The firm is taking a gay group to the Himalayas in August.

Prateek Hira of Tornos, a Lucknow-based travel agency, organised trips for 50-60 gay Aussie tourists recently. He points out that more homosexual men than lesbians visit India.

The tours, usually lasting close to a week or longer, ensure respectful travel for these tourists, who would otherwise face awkward situations among straight people. Gay-friendly boutique hotels and nightspots are specially chosen.

“Besides arranging for gay-friendly drivers and hotels at the places they wish to visit, we pack their itinerary with exciting activities,” says Prakash George Mathen, who runs Travellers Bank. “Some clients want gay parties to be organised during the trip, so that they can meet the local gay community. So we touch base with gay rights activists in the area to organise such a meeting to exchange experiences.” Activities also include spa therapies, yoga sessions and cocktail dinners.

Syed, manager of Online Car Rental India, another company wooing the ‘pink dollar’ — as gay spend is called — tells us about the preferred destinations. “Rajasthan, Goa and Kerala are a hit among foreigners.” Prakash adds, “They usually want secluded beaches and private spaces like houseboats and forest accommodation.” The staff at these places are trained not to intrude on the guests’ privacy.

All this comes at pretty affordable prices. According to Malhotra, a gay tour to, say, Ranikhet or Pangot (near Nainital) costs Rs 7,500-8,000 per night for a couple. Prakash recently organised a week-long getaway for a gay couple at Rs 30,000. At least, there is no premium charged for one’s sexuality.

A gay day in Delhi
Breakfast at a gay-friendly boutique hotel (name withheld on request), followed by a spa treatment

Shopping at flea markets like Sarojini Nagar or high-end fashion stores at Emporio and Select City Walk malls, depending on the tourists’ taste

Shopping could be followed by a rickshaw ride in Old Delhi and visiting a few heritage sites around the Capital

Fashion tours, organised by Indjapink, have fashion advisers updating the tourists about the latest trends in India. This could be followed by a makeover

The evenings are for socialising — whether at a private home where the organisers help the tourists meet the local gay community over curry and drinks, or in gay-friendly clubs like Pegs n Pints, Monk (Gurgaon), G Lounge (Noida) and Polka - The Club RA




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