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Sunday, August 2, 1998 Published at 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK

Business: The Economy

Gay travel boom

Revellers let their hair down at the Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney

Tens of thousands of people from all over the world are flooding into Amsterdam for the Gay Games. The city is expecting to make around $75m from the event. As BBC business correspondent Richard Quest reports, the gay travel market is a growth area for the holiday industry.

New York for the Black, Miami for the White, Montreal for the Black and Blue and Sydney for Mardi Gras.

Such are the main holiday spots on the so-called gay circuit.

[ image: BBC business correspondent: Richard Quest]
BBC business correspondent: Richard Quest
The parties are held throughout the year and thousands of gay men and women descend on the venues.

The growth of the gay market has been nothing short of phenomenal.

After all this is a community with more money to spend than the national average and with itchy feet.

American Airlines conservatively estimates it sells tickets worth $150m a year to people going on gay-related holidays.

A whole industry has now arisen to cater for their demands.

In America, Men On Vacation specialises in gay-related holidays to exotic places like Sydney, in time for the Mardis Gras.

And in Britain, too, companies are also getting in on the business.

While the traditional resorts (Sitges, Ibiza, Corfu) remain very popular, the growth in long-haul destinations has also been strong.

Gay Paris

[ image:  ]
Gay ghettos abound these days.

In New York it is Greenwich Village, in London Soho, in Sydney, Paddington.

In Paris, it is le Marais, where there has been an explosion in gay hotels and bars and where if you are not a gay-friendly business, you will be in business at all.

This week has seen a huge number of visitors passing through Paris on their way to the Games in Amsterdam. And many have taken in London on the way.

Not all plain sailing

The cruise market has been particularly profitable.

The American line RSVP has bought its own ships and offers discount tickets to encourage large tours to fill up the ship.

[ image:  ]
But there was a sharp reminder that many parts of the world are not yet ready for this trend.

Recently a ship chartered by a gay and lesbian group were booed, hissed and harrassed when they docked in the Bahamas.

The Cayman Islands, too, have made their displeasure clear, telling such holidaymakers they are not welcome.

The British Foreign Office received numerous protests and has raised the issue with the territories' governors.

No room at the inn

Even in Britain it might not be much of a holiday for the gay traveller.

A recent survey by the Independent newspaper revealed that 30% of hotels either refused bookings by a gay couple or required them to sleep in separate beds.

Many other tourists said they felt unwelcome in many bed and breakfast guest houses.

The Which?Hotel Guide said it was 'disappointed' by the paper's findings, but gay community groups were not surprised, describing such actions as discrimination.

All of this contrasts to the recent campaign run by the London Tourist Board which ran adverts in the gay press in America claiming the capital was an ideal gay destination.

Don't forget your toothbrush

[ image: The spending power of the gay community is attractive to holiday firms]
The spending power of the gay community is attractive to holiday firms
The importance of this market is likely to increase, especially if economies continue to slow down and traditional families find annual foreign vacations too expensive.

Then the selling to those with money will truly begin.

Figures show that airlines and holiday companies with a track record of being accomodating will win the business.

Otherwise it is every man for himself.

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