Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Asia gears up for lesbian and gay visitors

Asia gears up for lesbian and gay visitors
-- Symposium educates Asian tourism industry
-- International press trip explores “gay-welcoming” India

Over 75 travel industry professionals representing tour operators, travel agencies, hotel owners, and faculty and students of a travel management institute convened at the 1st Asian Symposium on Gay & Lesbian Tourism, held at the Le Meridien Hotel in New Delhi on 28 November.

The programme was organised by San Francisco-based Community Marketing, Inc. (CMI), the global market research and consultancy firm focused on gay and lesbian communications. Attendees heard from Thomas Roth, president of Community Marketing, Abhinav Goel, co-founder of New Delhi-based tour operator Out Journeys, LGBT community leaders, and a panel of travel industry experts. Each shared insights on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) tourism from their own perspectives.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s New York Office, a co-sponsor of the symposium, announced that it has embarked on a project to “crystalise” its approach to LGBT travellers. The pilot “Go Thai, be free” campaign is targeted at LGBT travellers living on the east coast of the US and is expected to launch in the first quarter next year.

The agenda focused on helping tourism and hospitality leaders understand the opportunities presented by increasing LGBT visitors, getting to know their potential customers better, as well as the challenges and best practices associated with LGBT travel. Ankit Rajvanshi, co-founder of Out Journeys, says they want to share the dynamic, exciting, LGBT-welcoming nature of India with the world. “As a boutique agency, we customise each tour, incorporating must-see India highlights with off the beaten path experiences, and visits to LGBT events and venues wherever available. We can also plan a wedding or honeymoon,” said Rajvanshi.

“Our guests are matched up with LGBT-friendly hotels, drivers and guides to ensure that their needs will be well taken care of.” “Gay travellers are interested to learn not only about India’s rich national heritage, but also about our ancient art, texts and temple carvings from as early as the 1500s that depict same-sex interaction between women and between men. India is also proud of our own gay prince – Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla who made the headlines internationally when he came out in 2006,” added Rajvanshi. As a ‘best practice,’ Out Journeys donates 5% of profits to an NGO, Mission for Indian Gay & Lesbian Empowerment (MINGLE).

According to CMI’s 16th Annual LGBT Tourism Report, which attracted over 30,000 respondents worldwide, gays and lesbians are “recession-resistant:” More gays and lesbians increased their travel over the past year than decreased travel. They also love to explore new destinations, and have an affinity for culture, arts, music and cuisine, making Asia a natural match. More gays and lesbians have and use their passports, and take far more trips per year compared to general market consumers. Roth acknowledged that while LGBTs are a highly desirable demographic, there are areas that tour operators and their vendors may need to address. “LGBT travellers need to feel genuinely welcomed, and their preferences and sensitivities must be met while travelling,” Roth said. He also highlighted that companies that consider themselves ‘gay-friendly’ are expected to implement non-discriminatory employment policies and support LGBT community groups.

At least half a dozen tour operators such as Cox & Kings, Go India, Sita Travel and adventure travel specialist Holiday Moods Adventures, and travel agency giant Thomas Cook, say they are already engaging in, or interested in reaching out to gay travellers. Amit Prasad, Chief Operating Officer of Go India Journeys, a division of La Passage to India, told attendees that his company had recently set up a team of staff members to research and meet the needs of LGBT travellers. Tour operators say a challenge they face is to provide sensitivity training to their vendors including drivers, tour guides and hotel staff, but that the expected return will be worth the time and investment.
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More information:
The 1st Asian Symposium on Gay & Lesbian Tourism was presented by Community Marketing, Inc.TAG Approved Accommodations and GLCVB, in partnership with Tourism ThailandOut JourneysAmerican AirlinesIGLTATraveltechie.comPink Banana Media and Go India Journeys.

For more information about the symposium, agenda and speakers, please visit Please also visit

Following the symposium, 11 international travel journalists representing major LGBT media outlets and websites from the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia embarked on an Out Journeys media familiarisation trip to Varanasi, Agra, Bharatpur and Jaipur.
Links to previous press releases:
  1. CMI’s 1st Asian Symposium on Gay & Lesbian Tourism
  2. Speakers Announced: Asia Symposium 
*NOTE:  Photo credit - Carlos Melia -

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New York's Marriott Marquis Times Square Hotel

New York City has a plethora of hotels to cater to any type of traveler. I had the pleasure of recently staying at one of New York’s icons, the Marriott Marquis Times Square. The hotel is situated right in the heart of Times Square located at 1535 Broadway. If you’re coming to New York for a Broadway getaway or a boys weekend, you can’t ask for a better location. Amazing theater is surrounding you and you’re steps from Hell’s Kitchen, a popular gay neighborhood. Want to go somewhere else? Virtually every train in the New York subway is a block away.

The lobby is located on the eighth floor, and even though the hotel is massive, the lobby was quiet and pleasant. I received welcoming service from the front desk agent who graciously upgraded my room so that I had a view of Times Square. After grabbing a Starbucks (there’s one in the lobby and on the ground floor), I headed up to my room, on the 36th floor. The glass elevators provided a speedy ascent and a great view of the property.

The rooms at the Marriott Marquis are very cozy. The d├ęcor isn’t outdated and for a New York hotel room, they’re very spacious. My room had a king bed and a sofa bed with a spectacular gaze South into Times Square. It was exactly what I needed to break away from the hustle and bustle of the city to re-charge and then jump back into it all. I had factored in a couple Broadway shows with my stay, so it was perfect.
The Marriott Marquis also has some incredible dining venues. The Atrium Lounge on the 8th floor makes a mean dirty martini and you’re able to enjoy it with the soaring atrium rising above you. You can ascend to the top of the atrium and hotel for The View, New York’s only revolving restaurant. It’s quite an experience to see the entire city from the top of Times Square. Add those to the Katen Sushi Bar and the Broadway Lounge – there’s something for everybody, and they’re all in fabulous settings.

Gym bunnies and workaholics need not fear. The gym at the Marriott Marquis is state of the art and as you’re running on your treadmill you are overlooking – you guessed it – Times Square. People and advertising watching from above make for an enjoyable run. If you’re here for business, there is Internet access throughout (for a fee) and a business center. If you’re having a meeting in New York, there is also incredible meeting space.  Didn’t have a chance to see all of the banquet rooms on this recent visit, but with the expected increase in weddings, given the recently passed marriage equality legislation, New York Marriott Marquis will be a place to check out for upcoming nuptials!

I love New York, it’s my second home and one of the most incredible cities in the world. Next time you’re here, think about staying at the Marriott Marquis – throw yourself in the middle of it. I guarantee you’ll fall in love with New York even more.