This month saw New Zealand travel agency recruit 10 LGBT holiday experts after a steady rise in bookings by same-sex couples over the last few years. With the legalisation of same-sex marriage in parts of Europe and USA, same-sex honeymoon bookings have increased by 279% over the last five years globally.
Kuoni said their 10-person team was put in place because more of its customers see tolerance levels and cultural attitudes as a "key factor" in choosing a destination.
Mark Duguid of Kuoni said: "There is a difference between exploring a sought-after destination where some discretion is required and a progressive destination where LGBT travellers are truly welcome.
"Increasingly parts of the world are embracing LGBT rights so the situation is evolving.
"Legislation on LGBT rights is a good indicator, but local customs are a key factor as general society does not always keep pace with lawmakers. This is where our travel expertise can really help make a difference."
This is a trend that the LGBT advocacy group Stonewall hope continues. The charity believes that travel firms should take more responsibility to tell LGBT couples if a destination is safe.
“We are really pleased to see travel companies like Kuoni take clear steps to recognise and act upon the needs of their diverse customer base,” said Vicky Constance of Stonewall.
“LGBT customers have an equal right to travel safely and enjoy their holiday, and we would welcome further action from the travel industry to take more responsibility in communicating these key messages to their staff and customers.”
The travel guide book company Lonely Planet list the most LGBT friendly tourist destinations as: Copenhagen, Denmark; New Zealand; Toronto, Canada; Palm Springs, USA; Sitges, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Mykonos, Greece; New York City, USA; Reykjavik; Iceland; Montevideo, Uruguay.
Sad to see that no destinations in Asia made the list. Where do you think is the top LGBT travel hotspot in the region?
About LGBT in Asia: I suppose Taiwan would be high on the list, as well as Thailand and the Philippines. But even the law is not necessarily a good indicator. I was recently in India where the notorious Section 377 is still in force, but it does not seem to intimidate gay people there at all! So a discrete LGBT visit seems quite recommendable.
Just be respectful.
Even at home!
However travellers should always do their own research about countries before traveling. Read about destinations in travel books, on the net and speciality gay guide books like Spartacus.
Being gay does not mean a predefined lifestyle.
If travel companies can offer this sort of advice when requested, then great. But I hope that the advisors will have personally travelled widely so they can talk from experience, not just what they have read somewhere. Having been in the travel industry for 35 years, I do not see that level of personal experience as reality. So, double-check any advice received. Take little heed of government travel warnings which are frequently alarmist & contribute little to "informed decision-making".
For personal travellers: Caveat Emptor. Do your homework, read & research your intended destinations (blogs in your intended countries are good sources) and make your own decisions. Wherever you decide to go, act maturely and with discretion - regardless of your 'persuasion', public displays of affection and/or lust are generally not welcomed, keep that for your bedroom. Remember that, in some countries, hotel rooms may be defined as 'public space' and subject to attention by the law.
I have been wandering around this planet for 50+ years and have rarely had a problem - mostly with bigoted hotel staff. There is much to enjoy without having to offend social sensibilities; remember the tales of the "ugly xxx traveller" (insert a nationality) and how disliked they are by other travellers, let alone by local people.