Gorkhatimes

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Nepal eyes sexual minorities for tourism

Posted by Ramesh Khati on October 22, 2009

KATHMANDU, OCT 22(The Kathmandu Post): Almost three years after the Supreme Court established gay rights in Nepal, the country is awaiting to host “one of the most extravagant groups of tourists in the world” — the sexual minorities consisting of lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals and transgenders (LGBTs).

Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) officials hope that LGBT arrivals will contribute to the government aim of bringing in a million foreign tourists in the Nepal Tourism Year 2011.

In the recent past, the tourism authority has held a series of meetings with some internationally established private companies, tour operators and non-profit organisations to promote Nepal as a potential destination for LGBTs. The sexual minorities make up about 10 percent of the world population—670 million as of July 2008—according to the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, an acclaimed research organisation specialising in sex, gender and reproduction.

“Some international companies want to work in tandem with the go-vernment and attract LGBTs. We will develop strategies for the same,” said an NTB official. “The beginning is encouraging.”

What has encouraged the government the most is that the renowned US-based Community Marketing Inc. (CMI), which is involved in gay and lesbian market research, has agreed to join hands in promoting Nepal as one of the best destinations for sexual minorities. A CMI research shows that gay and lesbian consumers make up at least 10 percent of the consumer market.

LGBT activists say they prefer destinations like Nepal, which is rich in culture, art, architecture, cuisine and music.

The CMI believes that Nepal has both natural beauty and the goodwill of the LGBT community worldwide to emerge as one of the world’s top destinations for sexual minorities. Nepal recently made history by having Asia’s first openly gay lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant, who is also Chairman of Blue Diamond Society.

Pant, who has been involved in promoting Nepal as a destination for sexual minorities, believes that the state could revive the economy if it could bring in at least 10 percent of the total LGBT population. “All that the government has to do is welcome LGBT travellers,” says Pant.

As part of the first promotional activity, Nepal is hosting a historic international conference in February, which is expected to bring together the world’s top tour operators, airlines and agencies selling adventure tourism to Kathmandu to explore opportunities for gay tourism in Nepal.

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