Gay and lesbian travelers are discovering new destinations from
Costa Rica to Cape Town, while continuing to favor long-popular
ones like Miami Beach, San Francisco and Palm Springs.
Several Western-state travel agents have noted that this year
South and Central America are especially gaining popularity with
the gay and lesbian travel market, which remains strong despite
sluggish general demand for leisure travel.
Four Western-state travel agents who market to this clientele
two in California, one in Las Vegas and one in suburban Denver all
report that bookings remain constant with several new trends.
“Travel is a buzzword in the gay and lesbian community,” said
Steve Lord, co-owner of Lakewood, Colo.-based All-Inclusive
“Travel in the gay community has become a large niche market
because there is more disposable income for travel and customers
are loyal to the travel agent who treats them well,” he said.
Lord, who co-owns his business with partner Jeff Gregory, lists
among his Top 10 destinations for gay tourism “cities that court
different minority groups: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York,
But he also mentions some additional resorts that are hot
including Blue Chairs Hotel, a gay beach resort in Mexico’s Puerto
“The section of the beach by the hotel is known as ‘Blue
Chairs’,’’ Lord says. “They’re all painted blue, and that’s where
all the gals and guys sit. If you’re not staying at the hotel, they
charge you $5 and you get two free beers.”
Another hot location is the La Plantacion guesthouse on Costa
Rica’s Pacific coast, which is operated by the gay/lesbian resort
chain Big Ruby’s.
The guesthouse there overlooks Manuel Antonio National Park amid
a rainforest, and is near a gay beach.
Lord says the popularity of the Dominican Republic is growing as
it has begun to offer specific resorts for gay and lesbian
travelers. Lord also lists the Greek island of Mykonos and Spain’s
And while Sydney traditionally has drawn gay tourists for its
Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, held at the end of February to the
beginning of March, the entire country is now a favorite gay
“It’s very U.S.-friendly, and very gay-friendly,” he says.
At San Francisco’s Friends of Dorothy Travel, consultant Troy
Coalman says South America is also growing in popularity.
“And not just Rio, which has always been a gay area. There
actually are gay tour operators going to Machu Picchu,” he says.
“It has to do with the spirituality aspect. That’s a big draw for
the gay couples who go there.”
Coalman says gay and lesbian travelers are also becoming
interested in Cape Town, South Africa, which is trying hard to
become a post-apartheid “open society” in general.
Also becoming more popular with this niche travel market are the
free-from-the-Iron-Curtain cities of unified Berlin, Prague and
“There’s a big push by the Berlin government because the mayor
is gay,” he says.
In the United States, Palm Springs and Miami/Fort Lauderdale are
And Coalman lauds the relatively new Miami-based Seadream Yacht
Club, which sails two sleek 100-passenger luxury-class yachts to
the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
“They do some something different. And gay travelers, in our
experience, look for something that’s not the usual,” he says.
At David Tours of Corona del Mar, Calif., owner David Rubin
mentions Provincetown, Cape Town, New York, London, Sydney and
Paris as popular locations.
Rubin, whose travel agency also organizes and customizes tours,
says that Cape Town’s Mother City Queer Project, a December costume
party, has become a major event on the gay party circuit.
“Fort Lauderdale and Palm Springs have very high-quality
guesthouses, including something virtually up to the standards of a
Four Seasons,” he says. “With the gay-friendly attitude of their
governments and their advertising in gay publications, they have
Rubin says the gay-owned Royal Palms guesthouse in Fort
Lauderdale is popular with clients.
He also says French-speaking Montreal has become a top
destination as a result of outreach efforts by the local tourism
board Quebec province published a travel poster in 1998 announcing
itself as gay-friendly.
And because David Tours specializes in Scandinavia, it has done
well booking trips to Copenhagen.
“It has a history of an open society,” Rubin says. “It helped
Jews during the Holocaust and always has been interested in human
In Las Vegas, Prestige Travel/American Express, which has an
agent specializing in the gay market, does a sizable business, via
its tripreservations.com site, booking people into the city.
“We now have one gay-owned resort, Blue Moon,” said John Berman,
the agency’s director of leisure travel. “But a good deal of our
gay business here is upscale the Bellagio, the Venetian.”
Outside Nevada, Berman says a majority of his gay business is to
Hawaii. And gay clientele are also going to London, Mexico,
Australia, Tahiti, Miami, Key West, Canada, and aboard the
Seattle-based Windstar Cruises, which operates three motorized
sailing vessels that cruise worldwide.
“The most interesting aspect of this business I see is that it’s
branching out,” Berman says. “People are not just going to special