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food / travel

Gay Travel: Top German Tourism Group Bets On Business Of LGBT Vacationers

The German travel company Dertour, one of the world’s leading tour operators, publishes catalogues covering many different countries and themes each season. Now for the first time, a catalogue is out called 'Gay Travel,' with some offers

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Michael Hegenauer

BERLIN - There are situations that gay men would rather not have to face when checking into a hotel. Such as when the lady at reception apologetically says they only have a room with a double bed and would that be okay? Or when she glances at the second man and asks: "Is he your brother?"

Gays could also do without the open-mouthed stares from other guests when, say, they stride through the lobby or breakfast room in form-fitting leather trousers. At least so says Dietmar Malcherek, the Mediterranean region product manager for Dertour, which specializes in individual travel. Malcherek is also gay. And together with his heterosexual colleagues Sonja Thiesing and Jens Reinhardt, he is the man behind the new 90-page catalogue that purports to list "the best addresses around the world for gays, lesbians and their friends."

Malcherek says that certified hotels particularly train staffers to give gay guests good advice and tips and avoid asking questions like the ones just cited.

The Dertour initiative is not a first on the German market – in 2009, reputed operator TUI published a 50-page magazine-style catalogue for men called "Gay & Travel." It came out four times, but the Hannover-based company has now stopped producing it – even if, said a spokesperson, "that target group continues to be of interest to us." They say they are working on a new approach, and meanwhile have integrated gay and lesbian travel into their country catalogues.

Dertour, which belongs to the REWE Group and says that it has been working on the idea of producing a separate catalogue for five years, has gone exactly the opposite way – they've taken the "gay friendly" and "gay only" hotels out of the country catalogues and grouped them in their "Gay Travel" catalogue.

Gay travel different from lesbian travel

By mid-January, the new Dertour publication will be in 10,000 travel agencies, some 80 of which are specifically devoted to gay travel. It contains travel ideas for "City Street Life," "Beach & Nature," and "Adventure, Fun & More." At some of the featured hotels, both homosexual and heterosexual guests are "very welcome," while other venues are specifically for gays and lesbians.

While there are some hotels exclusively for gays, lesbian-exclusive hotels are thin on the ground. "Lesbians don't behave the same way as gay men when they travel," says Malcherek. "Gay men travel more than lesbians do, and they tend to be more hedonistic – although gay women are catching up."

The catalogue lists 140 hotels, resorts and small hideaways in 30 countries, interspersed with nuggets about the Pink Lake Festival in Austria, gay-only Mediterranean cruises, a gay city tour of Tel Aviv, and more.

Avoiding "illegal" locations

Mediterranean hotspots like Ibiza, Capri, Mykonos, Sitges (near Barcelona) are of course listed, but there are also destinations further afield: Key West and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, Palm Springs in California, Tulum (Mexico), Costa Rica and Curacao.

Countries like Morocco, Dubai, China and Malaysia are conspicuously absent. Homosexuality is illegal in these countries, so for a serious company seeking to offer its clients fun but also security there was no question of including them.

Even Thailand, which exercises a strong attraction for both gays and lesbians, is not included. Some of the hotels Dertour wanted to list asked not to be in the catalogue, and others, which agreed to be in the catalogue, tended more in the direction of sex tourism and so were not included.

Some Turkish hotels, such as the Hillside Su, are mentioned; but equally surprising is the absence of hotels in other places such as the upscale German holiday island of Sylt where not a single hotel agreed to be included. The word was that gay guests are welcome, but they don't want it published – even though it's an open secret that homosexuals are great fans of places like the Marin Hotel Sylt and Haus Hallig.

Dertour says that its figures show that 5 to 7% of Germans are homosexual, and that about 25% of them travel on a regular basis. (Germany's population is just under 82 million.) So while the market is relatively small, gays and lesbians typically have quite a high level of spending power.

"It was high time to put out a catalogue," says Malcherek. But does a long-established general tour operator have enough credibility to capture the market away from specialized operators? And can they get gays and lesbians to book through them rather than directly?

Just as not every gay is an Abba fan, not every gay travels – or travels frequently --, earns a lot, or will even opt for a "gay hotel": many gay couples prefer "normal" hotels.

It will be interesting to see how Dertour does in the gay travel industry, and if it can lure closet gays and lesbians as well. And yes, the catalogue will also be available on line.

Read the original article in German

Photo - Loren Javier

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