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Gay parades, parties attract LGBT tourists

delhi Updated: Feb 03, 2013 01:39 IST
Manoj Sharma

Delhi's rise as a "pink" destination can be attributed to the city's increasingly liberal attitude towards homosexuality and growing numbers of gay-friendly and gay-only restaurants, hotels and pubs.

The Capital figures high on the travel itinerary of international LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) travellers. The city's many gay-only travel operators point out that their revenues have been rising steadily - by almost 100% a year for tour operators Out Journeys and Pink Vibgyor.

Bhuvan Mehta, who launched travel company Pink Escapes last year, has already conducted several tours that combine, what he calls, "destinations and pink adventures". Mehta's "experiential tours" incorporate an interesting itinerary that includes an attendance at an Indian wedding and a visit to a historian's house.

Besides, he also offers a "delightfully pink experience" that involves "meeting with an exceptional medley of talented people from the LGBT community, experiencing traditional massages by experienced gay or gay-friendly therapists, visiting gay-owned or gay-friendly restaurants, boutiques and other establishments".

"Gay tourism started picking up after homosexuality was decriminalised in 2009 and Delhi has done better than other Indian cities. It has several gay-only spas and saunas, besides gay-friendly hotels," says Mehta.

There are establishments in the city that display rainbow flags, showing themselves to be LGBT-friendly, he says.

Pink Vibgyor founder Rajat Singla says his company informs hotels about his gay clientele so that the staffs behave accordingly. "Our guests are always accompanied by gay or gay-friendly tour guides wherever they go," he adds.

"While we are not a gay-only hotel, we have told our staff on how to deal with gay or lesbian couples. We host about 15 gay or lesbian couples every month," says Rajat Verma, owner of Shanti Home, a plush boutique hotel that is mentioned on the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association website.

Indjapink, perhaps the country's first "gay travel boutique", conducts what it calls PINKPERFECT, a special training programme in hotels in Delhi and other cities. "It is about telling the staffs how to treat an LGBT traveller," says Suraj Laishram of Indjapink, adding, "We have already conducted the programme in many hotels in Delhi and other cities."

Several lounge bars and pubs across the National Capital Region often host gay parties, which are increasingly attracting international LGBT tourists. Manish Sharma, who organises such parties under the banner of Boyzone, a city-based support group for the LGBT community, says that around 20% of those attending his party are foreigners.

"The number of those attending our gay parties has gone up from 150 two years ago to about 400 now. What Delhi needs now are gay-only clubs," he says.

Abhinav Goel of Out Journeys says regular events such as gay parades and queer film festivals have also given a boost to "pink" tourism.

In 2011, the Capital also hosted the first Asian Symposium on Gay and Lesbian Tourism. The event brought together well-known members of the gay community, travel agents, hotel owners and gay tour operators from across the world and was aimed at exploring opportunities of gay tourism in the country.

Mehta, of Pink Escapes, says India should actively work to tap "pink dollars". "The LGBT community has more disposable income as most community members have less family commitments, and they tend to travel and spend a lot," he says.