Leslie Robinson

The Gay Travel Buzz: Is the World Your Oyster?

Filed By Leslie Robinson | January 19, 2012 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, gay dollars, gay tourists, India, international travel, LGBT travel, Mexico City, Peru

I used to be a travel writer, but these days I'm ignorant about international travel. I don't even know where gays with money - gay-tourists.jpgin this economy, all six of them - go abroad on vacation.

So I asked my friend LoAnn Halden, who both writes about travel and serves as the Media Relations Manager for the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, where the happening places for gays are.

The short answer is everywhere she's been. Now, now, don't hate her for that.

The longer answer is a positive one. As LoAnn wrote me in an email, "The gay world is certainly larger than it used to be."

I hadn't thought about gay travel in that way before, but by the god of lost luggage, she's right. In years past, if you were gay and out, you likely stuck with the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and western Europe.

Now the whole world might not be your oyster, but you can get your hands on more of the pearls.

LoAnn noted, "Certainly South America/Latin America continues its gay rise. Argentina and Brazil are leading the way, but I also know gays who love Colombia and we see plenty of gay group trips to Machu Picchu, Peru."

I wonder if any Inca spirits still hanging around those spectacular Peruvian ruins wisecrack when they see yet another busload of men unload, all of them attired in their colorful native garb, commonly known as Abercrombie & Fitch.

Argentina legalized same-sex marriage not long ago. The Pride Parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is the biggest LGBT Pride celebration in the world. Gay rights in Colombia have moved forward. No doubt there are other reasons that Latin America has become a gay destination, but an improving LGBT rights picture is a factor.

"When you see changes in marriage/sodomy laws, like in South America or India, it adds to the buzz," said LoAnn. Before you know it, gay men from Topeka are feeling the urge to samba.

Some savvy tourist officials around the world know the value of buzz. When Argentina legalized gay marriage in 2010, the tourism minister of Mexico City, which had legalized gay marriage the year before, offered a free honeymoon to the first gay Argentines to wed.

The offer was "in recognition of tolerance, but also to promote gay-friendly tourism in Mexico City," said Tourism Minister Alejandro Rojas. No "idiota," he.

Rojas said gay tourists are respectful, discerning and shell out 47 percent more than straight tourists. It's a wonder every tourist official from Belize to Benin isn't courting us.

Geez, 47 percent. As nations around the world grapple with LGBT rights, which is still an oxymoron to far too many of them, it would make sense for local tourism authorities to worm their way into the discussions. Especially with the world economy as it is, those charged with boosting tourism should quietly chant "47 percent, 47 percent."

As LoAnn mentioned, the nation of India made a welcome, landmark, really-big-deal change. In 2009 the Delhi High Court struck down Section 377, which made homosexual sex a criminal offense.

Last month LoAnn visited India on a trip for LGBT travel journalists, sponsored not by Indian authorities - apparently they don't want to woo us yet - but by those in the private sector, like tour operators, travel agents and hoteliers. Word of that 47 percent has reached the Ganges.

LoAnn posted her India pictures on Facebook, and I for one drooled like a fool. I must start travel writing again. The next nation to improve its LGBT laws, I'm there.

Guess that rules out Vatican City.

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