SUDIPTA DEV – Singapore
ITB Asia for the first time had a Pink Corner this year for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) tourism. In an exclusive interaction with Express TravelWorld, Thomas Bomkes, MD, Diversity Tourism and LGBT consultant, Gay & Lesbian Segment, ITB Berlin said that his many visits to India has revealed that the Indian tour operators and hotels are interested in this market segment. “India will become one of the new big gay hotspots in Asia because there is so much of interest and also in the Indian society most people do not have any problem with this segment. As a gay traveller you feel very secure in India, ” he said.
On the other hand, he reminded, this market has not really developed in India and there is lack of infrastructure for gay travellers. Bomkes however feels that the inbound to India will grow when tour operators create special products and Indian tourism boards promote this abroad. “Gay tourism segment has grown a lot in the last decade and many destinations are doing a lot of marketing. The LGBT community has to know what India offers as a destination,” stated Bomkes. He pointed out that while India has diverse attractions that have much to offer, a destination like Kerala could be a big draw for gay travellers, particularly because of its focus on Ayurveda and wellness tourism. “Gay people do a lot of wellness trips and Kerala has a lot to offer,” he said. Bomkes mentioned that gay travellers are also very interested in culture and India has much to offer, like shopping for which Mumbai and Delhi are important locations, besides beach destinations like Goa, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Lakshadweep.
Knowledge sharing via workshops and conferences are an important part of the agenda. “Under the brand of ITB Academy we develop conferences around the world to educate and train tourism destinations, tour operators and hotels when they go into this tourism segment. We had one in Delhi two years ago and last year in Goa as part of Goa International Travel Mart. However, the workshop had to be cancelled in Goa because of protests from the archbishop of Goa. But we had a press conference and we could tell the Indian media what we had to communicate in the workshop. So we got a much better coverage at the end of the day,” he stated.