Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gay Travel in Austrailia

by Andrew Copestake, Demand Media

With the annual Sydney Mardi Gras as its crowning glory, Australia is a prized destination for gay travelers, but its attractions extend beyond one festival. Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne are home to diverse gay populations and barely a month goes by without a gay event somewhere in the country, whether it's watching movies at Melbourne's Queer Film Festival or unwinding at Mardi Gras Recovery Week in Noosa. For those seeking a less hectic pace, rural areas, especially in Tasmania and along the Queensland coast, offer dozens of gay-owned hotels.

Gay Hubs

Sydney is one of the world's most gay-friendly destinations with a host of bars and restaurants in Darlinghurst and Paddington, while North Bondi beach entices sun-worshipers by day. Melbourne's reputation for culture attracts gay travelers who congregate around the restaurants and galleries of Commercial Road. Coastal Queensland is the preferred choice for a beach vacation; although nightlife is scant, a handful of gay beaches provide respite, while Cairns boasts the largest concentration of gay-exclusive resorts in Australia.


Before making a reservation, check whether hotels are members of Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to hotels looking to welcome gay guests. Some travelers prefer to stay in gay-owned accommodations. Turtle Cove, 45 miles north of Cairns, provides easy access to the Great Barrier Reef and has 30 rooms, all with private balconies that overlook the beach or tropical gardens. In Tasmania, Corinda's Cottages features three cottages equipped with kitchen and laundry facilities. Set in a fairytale garden, where a flock of Fantail doves serenade guests from an ornate dovecote, the rooms are crammed with antiques, providing a temporary distraction from the island's dense rainforests, wild coastline and mountain peaks.


Australia's gay festivals can help determine the best time to visit. For film fans Melbourne hosts Australia's oldest queer film festival every March, screening films from across the globe. Adelaide's Feast Festival is Australia's second largest gay festival, featuring two weeks of sports and cultural events, as well as a picnic in Pinky Flat park. Sydney Mardi Gras, one of the most flamboyant street parades in the world, also holds two weeks of cultural events from the end of February. When Mardi Gras ends, hundreds of revelers retreat to Noosa for Recovery Week, a seven-day program of cocktail evenings, boat cruises and pool parties.

Gay Press

Many of Australia's cities have gay magazines that provide up-to-date club listings and are available for free in gay venues. "SX" is Sydney's weekly publication, distributed in the cafes of Oxford Street and at The Bookshop, a gay bookstore in Darlinghurst. "Q Magazine" is Melbourne's monthly free magazine, "Queensland Pride" covers Brisbane, Cairns and the coastal resorts each month, while bi-monthly "Fuse" lists details of Canberra's scene.

Is Nepal a Gay-Wedding Destination?

By Deepak Adhikari / Kathmandu via

Organizing a wedding at a Hindu temple is nothing unusual in Nepal. Most Nepalis, the majority of whom are Hindu, opt for a traditional ceremony in one of the country's thousands of places of worship, believing that it sanctifies a couple's bond.

But on a sunny day on June 20, a temple nestled in the hills not far from the capital Kathmandu hosted a new kind of wedding. When Courtney Mitchell, 41, put the vermilion powder — the symbol of marriage for Hindu women — on the forehead of her girlfriend, Sarah Welton, 48, the American couple became the first lesbians to tie the knot in a public Hindu marriage ceremony in Nepal.

They exchanged garlands as a young Hindu priest chanted mantras and local artisans played the five traditional musical instruments of the rite. Mitchell, who teaches psychology at the University of Denver, was dressed in the colorful traditional Nepalese attire of the groom, a long double-breasted shirt worn with loose trousers and a wedge-shaped, embroidered cap. Welton, a lawyer, was resplendent in red sari and blouse, adorned with Nepali jewelry.

The ceremony marked the beginning of a potentially lucrative niche market in Nepal, aimed at tapping into the $670 million global gay-tourism industry. Last year, Nepal's openly gay lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant launched Pink Mountain, the nation's first travel agency to cater exclusively to gay tourists. Selling Nepal as a wedding destination for gay couples, many of whom live in countries where same-sex marriage is illegal, has been widely embraced by the entrepreneurs of the tourism sector, a once thriving industry that was dealt a severe blow during the decade-long Maoist insurgency that claimed the lives of 16,000 people.

The end of the insurgency heralded a new era for the gay and lesbian community in this conservative Himalayan nation. With the country opening up to new ideas and myriad minorities gaining acceptance under the banner of inclusiveness, Nepal made large strides forward on gay-rights issues. In December 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the government to ensure the rights of gays and lesbians, decriminalizing homosexuality. At the forefront of this battle has been Pant, who, through his rights group Blue Diamond Society, has been instrumental in the fight for the rights of sexual minorities since 2001.

Today, Pant's newer venture offers gay-themed tours of Nepal's major tourist sites, and a Hindu-inspired wedding with a weeklong travel package that costs $11,000. He says he's been overwhelmed with inquiries since the American couple's wedding received wide coverage in the international press. Both couples and singles from Canada, China, and Germany, among other places, have booked tours and inquired about weddings in the past month alone, and he expects more clients to come calling once the monsoon ends and the holiday season begins. "The local people are gradually opening up," Pant says. "Many businesses have issued special rates for our clients."

Tourism in Nepal, the famed home of Mount Everest and birthplace of the Buddha, has been gradually picking up since the civil war ended in 2006. Tourism currently accounts for around 7% of Nepal's GDP. The government has declared 2011 "Nepal Tourism Year," aiming to double the number of visitors to the Himalayan nation. In 2010, more than 500,000 tourists crossed the border — the highest number since the fighting ended.

Even the country's traditionally conservative bureaucracy is upbeat about the prospect of attracting gay tourists and their dollars, yuan and rupees. Sharad Pradhan, a spokesman with the state-run Nepal Tourism Board, says Pant's campaign has the government's tacit approval. "Nepal is much more liberal than other countries," Pradhan says. "All the tourist sites are open for everyone, including gays and lesbians."

Indeed, a recently concluded nationwide census included the "third gender," individuals who identify themselves as neither man or woman regardless of their gender at birth, as an alternative category. The country has issued citizenship for individuals who identify as third gender since 2008, and the new constitution is expected to define marriage as a union between two adult individuals, regardless of how they identify themselves.

But the constitution drafting, one of the key tasks promised in the peace deal signed four years ago, has been delayed — a major roadblock, says Pant, for cashing in on this emerging market. "[Gay tourists] want to be fully assured that homosexuality has been decriminalized in the host country," he says. Nepal's laws, still murky in this long transition period, may cause some to hesitate. "The progress has been slow. All they want is a marriage certificate from the government."

And not everyone in Nepal is on board to make this country — a deeply conservative society which prided itself as the world's only Hindu kingdom before becoming secular in 2006 — a gay-vacation destination. Groups that consider homosexuality "unnatural" and against Nepali tradition have openly opposed Pant's campaign. "This is an attack against our culture," says Basudev Krishna Shastri, an astrologer who heads the National Religion Awareness Campaign, which urges its supporters to follow ancient Hindu Vedic lifestyles that define marriage as between a man and a woman. "We need not promote gay tourism in order to attract tourists. We can do so by promoting our unique culture and the mountains." Shastri says his group has mulled a lawsuit against the American couple for marrying in a temple, claiming that they "polluted" the local culture. The group withdrew the case after no lawyers came forward to defend their case.

Despite these challenges, Pant remains optimistic — and is open for business. Pink Mountain's next temple wedding, booked by a couple from Germany, is planned for October. "We have cautiously built a brand for the gay tourists," he says. "If they want to visit a location which is exotic and rich in both tradition and natural beauty with friendly people, then Nepal is the place."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lords Hotel welcomes Miami's LGBT travelers

Miami Beach is likely to see an increase in travelers from the LGBT community after launching America’s first gay hotel chain, Lords Hotel.

Located at Miami’s South Beach, the new accommodation block has been praised for making a “quantum leap in gay travel”, offering its guests a relaxed and cool environment complete with Cha Cha bars and Liza Minnelli posters.

With plans to launch the chain in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco owner Brian Gorman told the Gawker that the concept came after surveying 20,000 gay Americans and found that they would opt to stay in a gay oriented hotel over other options.

He added that from its conception his aim was the build a hotel that would relax guests with its fun environment.

“You know, so many products in the boutique world are about 'We're so cool that, like, if you want to walk into the lobby, you have to put on the sunglasses, instead of taking them off,” Mr Gorman said.

“What I wanted was a place where people would come and automatically be disarmed by the design.”

According to Mr Gorman, the hotel was constructed within four months, a short period to avoid over thinking the product.
“I think more time makes for an over designed, over thought product, whereas what we did was from the gut,” he concluded.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

American Airlines Endorses The Employment Non-Discrimination Act

American Airlines, one of the world’s largest global airlines and a founding member of the oneworld® Alliance, has again advocated the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). As the first airline to endorse ENDA, American Airlines communicated its support of the bill in 2008 and 2009 in correspondence with Congressional leaders. In its current letter of endorsement, American Airlines states:

“On behalf of our 80,000 employees, American Airlines is proud to express our strong support for S. 811 and H.R. 1397, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend basic job protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. We are proud to have been the first major airline to implement same-sex domestic partner benefits, first to implement both sexual orientation and gender identity in our workplace non-discrimination policies, and first to have a recognized LGBT employee resource group – GLEAM.

“Our endorsement of ENDA is consistent with our longstanding ‘Statement of Equal Opportunity.’ The principles fostered by ENDA are consistent with our corporate principles in treating all employees with fairness and respect.”

The letter of support was signed by Lauri Curtis, American’s Vice President – Diversity, Leadership and Engagement; Michael Wascom, American’s Managing Director – International and Government Affairs; and Rick Wilbins, Managing Director – Brand and Diversity Markets.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gay Pride Hostels Around the World


June marked the beginning of Gay Pride festivals around the world when lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transsexual (LGBT) orientations celebrate their commitment to the pride movement and gay and equal rights. And what better way to celebrate than joining in with parades, rallies, special Gay Pride events and donning your brightest and boldest colors.

But if you want to head to the party, you better sort out some accommodation quick-sharp!

4 top Gay Pride festivals around the world with some gay-friendly hostels – ideal places to crash after a day of marching or a night of partying.

San Francisco Pride 25-26 June

Often voted the best in the world, San Francisco Gay Pride is a highlight on the city’s events calendar. The bustling Castro district is home to the San Francisco gay scene and the Elements Hostel is just a short walk from here. Their roof terrace offers 360° views of the downtown area and guests receive discounts at San Francisco clubs.

There are female-only, male-only and mixed occupancy dorms with sturdy wooden bunks and new mattresses. Beds from €15pppn

London Pride 1-3 July 2011

With a fantastic metro network and plenty of night buses for getting home on an evening, you can base yourself in most London neighbourhoods and still have easy access to the main Gay Pride event in Trafalgar Square.

YHA London Central is a 15-minute walk from the lively Soho gay bars and its cool cafe culture. The hostel has self-catering facilities, lockers in dorms and a games room. Beds from €22pppn

Amsterdam Pride 4-7 August 2011

Street parties, special club nights and the fabulous Canal Parade; Amsterdam Gay Pride is must-experience!

The Bulldog hostel is in the heart of the Amsterdam Red Light District, which means all the action is on your doorstep. They have a lively bar with a pool table but also a roof terrace where you can escape and chill out. Beds from €33pppn

New York City Pride 18-26 June

To be close to the popular New York City gay bars and clubs, the Meatpacking District and Greenwich Village are within easy reach of Chelsea Inn which offers private double and twin rooms. A free breakfast – including white chocolate and cranberry scones – will set you up for a day of Pride rallies and the day of the march. Beds from €34pppn

Closer to the Gay Pride festival site at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, Hostelling International – New York is on the Upper West Side and has shared, single-sex dorms. Beds from €20pppn

To book a hostel, visit