Nepal aiming to attract 200,000 LGBT tourists in 2011


KATHMANDU – Nepal plans to attract around 200,000 sexual minorities including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexes (LGBTI) during the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 (NTY-2011).

The Blue Diamond Society (BDS), an organization representing sexual minorities in the country, has said that it aims to bring 200,000 i.e. 20 percent such tourists of the total one million tourists in the NTY-2011. Nepal aims to host one million tourists this year.

Already gay tourists are responding favorably to the holiday and travel packages offered by Pink Mountain, a travel and tour agency run by sexual minorities and catering exclusively to LGBTI.

Pink Mountain offers wedding, honeymoon and anniversary packages to domestic as well as international LGBTI tourists, according to lawmaker and Chairman of Pink Mountain Sunil Babu Panta. “The agency has also confirmed two more same-sex marriages, trekking and many more adventures in the first month of its launch,” said Panta.

Most of the LGBTIs coming to Nepal so far have been sexual minorities from two Asian giants, India and China. Nepal’s liberal policies towards sexual minorities following a Supreme Court ruling have attracted LGBTIs from many countries.

In 2007, the Supreme Court (SC) of Nepal had directed the government to grant citizenship to LGBTIs and form a same-sex marriage committee to assure equality of the sexual minorities.

The agency offers grand weddings in national parks and the Everest base-camp, nature trip, adventure and safari, pilgrimage and meditation facilities to LGBTIs visiting the country. Globally, gay tourism is estimated to be over US$ 100 billion a year, and Nepal’s gay entrepreneurs are keen to cash in on it.

“The US alone makes US$ 68 billion every year through gay tourism,” said Panta. “We are one of the fastest growing South Asian countries to accept the natural characteristics of being LGBTI. We can reap this benefit to boost the economy of the country.” A research conducted by the Community Marketing International (CMI) in the United States found that 98 percent of LGBTIs have at least one overnight trip in a year.

Gay tourism entrepreneurs are coordinating with the government as well as other commercial organizations this year to attract a large number of sexual minorities. The BDS organized the same-sex marriage of an Indo-British couple last August in Nepal.

“So far, the government has extended only moral support to the gay tourism sector,” said Panta. However, he said he was pleased that the big hotels and resorts have come forward with LGBTI community-focused events and packages.

“Tiger and Gokarna resorts, Annapurna, Everest, Himalayan and Dwarika hotels are coordinating with us for the event,” Panta said.