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Poolside in Monaco.
Poolside in Monaco.

Summertime is party time for Gay Pride destinations in Europe. From Palermo to Prague, Crete to Cologne, Barcelona to Budapest, Pride-themed tourism begets dozens of festivals and parades celebrating LGBT communities. And this year Madrid hosted the biggest party of all—World Pride Madrid.

Exact figures are hard to obtain, but according to John Tanzella, president and CEO of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA)—the leading member-based organization dedicated to LGBT tourism—Madrid was a top choice for this world event. “Spain, with its strong promotion of equal rights, such as its same sex-marriage and adoption laws passed in 2005, is positioned as one of the most welcoming nations for the LGBT community.”

Among gay and lesbian travelers to Europe, Barcelona’s Gaixample district seems to share a top-of-the-bucket-list ranking with Berlin’s Schoneberg. However, according to the German National Tourist Office’s (GNTO) Amrei Gold, director of communications, “throughout the country, Germany’s gay scene is legendary, embracing a huge variety of events venues, springtime prides, parties, festivals and communities in cities and towns.”

Part of the reason Germany’s LGBT scene is thriving, according to the GNTO, is a credit to both progressive legislation and an atmosphere of mutual respect for everyone. Most recently, legislation took another step forward for the LGBT community: Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative Christian Democrats shifted stance on same-sex marriage, and lawmakers voted to make same-sex marriage and right of adoption legal. Gold reports that “we are excited that the stream of visitors is potentially going to increase because of recent developments, and we expect an uptick in weddings and in honeymooners.”

And as the saying goes: some of the best things come in small packages. For the LGBT market, that’s 499-acre Monaco, also a destination member of IGLTA, but the only one whose site-sensational location on the Med permits a gay couple and friends to have breakfast in Monaco, lunch in Italy, and dinner in France, and then be back in Monaco for late-night drinks. Positioning itself as the perfect destination pick for couples’ milestone celebrations such as proposals, honeymoons and anniversaries, the Principality has just released its first LGBT brochure, including other top reasons to think Monaco: it’s inclusive, authentic, fabulous and secure. Or, as Cindy Hoddeson, director, North America, Monaco Government Tourist Office, reminds us, “in addition to a reputation for fairytale romance, luxurious hotels, epicurean delights, and a full calendar of cultural and sports events, Monaco is a cosmopolitan—made up of 139 nationalities—and welcoming nation.”

On the rooftop pool at Turquoize, the resort within a resort at Hyatt Ziva Cancun.
On the rooftop pool at Turquoize, the resort within a resort at Hyatt Ziva Cancun.

Tanzella is particularly excited that one of Europe’s most popular destinations for gay travelers, Italy, became an IGLTA Global Partner this year, an announcement first made by Giovanni Bastianelli, executive director of the Italian National Tourist Board, who said, “we are committed to working with tourism businesses to expand welcoming infrastructures that will foster inclusion and strengthen our brand image as a country of tolerance, respect, progress and open-mindedness for all.”

We had one more question for Tanzella: How do you position LGBT travelers in the 21st century? “It’s a leading niche in emerging market trends, a segment made up of people who are highly diverse, more visible, more adventurous, and it’s a market that travels with high frequency and higher than average spending.” He also adds that among IGLTA’s major tasks in servicing this market are providing members with planning tools and trip ideas, as well as access to a global network of successful businesses supporting LGBT tourism. Agents looking to learn more about the LGBT market might well consider reading the 2nd Global Report on LGBT Tourism, accessible at iglta.org/unwto-report.

Book It
HE Travel—offering adventure tours for gay men, lesbians and open-minded friends and family—is a company with a unique history. The “HE” of HE Travel comes from Hanns Ebensten, widely considered the father of gay travel, when in 1972 he created the first organized trip for gay men—rafting through the Grand Canyon. Philip Sheldon, who worked with Ebensten and eventually bought the company, of which he is now president, outlines for Recommend how HE Travel looks today. “We love the classics, the Pyramids, Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, the Parthenon, the Great Wall, and we have escorted Classic Tours to all of them,” says Sheldon. And of course what could be more classic than Europe, where the accent is on culture, food and wine. “We celebrate gay history—from the Renaissance to modern times—in London and Paris, and we tour Greece (one of our most popular cultural destinations), going beyond Athens to visit the country in a new way.”

HE Travel’s adventure division features a wide selection of cycling tours, including villa-based vacations in the southern Italy’s Puglia region and seven different bike-route choices in France.

Contact Information
German National Tourist Office: germany.travel
HE Travel: hetravel.com
IGLTA: iglta.org
Italian National Tourist Board: italiantourism.com
Monaco Government Tourist Office: visitmonaco.com
Tourist Office of Spain: spain.info