India can tap booming gay tourism sector: Tour promoter

October 21st, 2011 - 6:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, Oct 21 (IANS) India can close its eyes and miss the global gay tourism bus, an international gay tour promoter said here Friday even as the Goa government unceremoniously dropped a session on lesbian gay bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) tourism from a state sponsored travel and tourism mart.

Rika Jean-Francois, a representative of the ITB Berlin - a renowned tourism and travel mart - and Thomas Bomkes, managing director Munich based Diversity Tourism, who were to participate in a discussion on LGBT tourism at the Goa International Travel Mart (GITM), also issued a joint statement protesting accusations that LGBT tourism was equivalent to “paedophilia practices, sex tourism, sex tourism or escort service”.

“India can close its eyes, but gay tourism is going to be there. It is up to India to see if they can tap this sector. Gay tourists globally will go elsewhere,” Bomkes said.

The decision to drop the LGBT discussion from the three day GITM was taken after rightwing groups and the Goa church criticised the government’s decision to endorse LGBT tourism mart, claiming that the state government was endorsing “perversity”.

Francois, whose ITB Berlin had tied up with the GITM for a session on LGTB tourism, said that India with ayurveda, culturally rich cities, beach tourism was an ideal destination to promote gay friendly tourism and that they were disappointed that the discussion on the LGBT segment was dropped in face of protests.

“We did not want to hurt any feelings or promote anything sleazy or non decent. We respect cultural diversity,” she said. “We have never promoted Goa as a special LGBT destination…. It’s a misunderstanding of the subject and a prejudice to think and express that LGBT tourism has anything to do with drugs, sex tourism, escort service or paedophile practices,” Bomkes said. He further said that the average gay tourist spent more money than the average straight traveller.

“In the US alone, there the LGBT market is worth $ 65 billion,” he said.

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