Thursday, September 10, 2009

India turning favoured destination for gay tourists


India turning favoured destination for gay tourists

*      Published on Sun, Sep 06, 2009 at 11:50, Updated on Sun, Sep 06, 2009 at 12:10 in India section



INDIA WATCHES: People take part in the annual gay parade in Budapest on September 5, 2009.

INDIA WATCHES: People take part in the annual gay parade in Budapest on September 5, 2009.

Bangalore: With the government warming up to the idea of legalising homosexuality in India, tour operators in the country are trying to sell India as the ultimate tourists destination for gays.

The section of the tourism industry that hopes to benefit from visits by homosexual tourists may well bring a turnover estimated at two trillion dollars by year 2012, a market that's just waiting to be exploited in India.

The director of Indjapink, Sanjay Malhotra said, "Gay men or the LGBT community as they're called, is the biggest spender of lifestyle products. They have maximum disposable incomes as they come from DINK (double income, no kids) group. So they're recession proof and one thing they cannot compromise on is their vacation."

With customised trips involving gay-friendly chauffeurs and operators, the travel tour company is to be India's first dedicated gay travel boutique.

The lesbian-gay community in India has been largely keeping a low profile and there are very few who come out in the open. But it's gay men from abroad who're the primary targets of the tourism sector, with custom-designed packages to avoid harassment and embarrassment.

Tour operators recall an incident when a gay couple from abroad was in India to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Their trip was largely incident-free, but on their way back to the airport, their driver advised them to bring their wives the next time to enjoy this country's beauty.

Tour operators hope to keep their clients away from this kind of embarrassment, so the region can be at par with countries like Thailand in promoting a gay-friendly environment.

The vice-president of Karnataka Tourism Forum, Lovleen Arun said, "We need to sensitise the drivers, guides to expect this. Probably, we may think of making it a part of our training and the training courses we have for everyone."

So while courts are still debating the big gay issue, social acceptability is one obstacle in an opening tourism market.




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