Boutique, specialize on gay marketing, says Thailand “Hottest” for gay tourist

English: Description= The Sanctury of Truth, T...

English: Description= The Sanctury of Truth, Thailand. Source = self-made Date = December 2007 Author = Brenden Brain copyright 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Boutique, a London-based agency specializing in gay marketing, rated Thailand as the “hottest destination” for 2013, ahead of the United States and Argentina, which were ranked second and third. New York Times report with the article headline “Tolerance, the Thais have learned, is good for business.” The article says;  In recent advertising and marketing campaigns, the government here in “the land of smiles” has actively gone after categories of tourists that for reasons of political sensitivity or outright discrimination are shunned in some neighboring countries. It is the only Asian country, travel industry analysts say, that has a government-sponsored campaign — “Go Thai. Be Free.” — aimed at gay and lesbian travelers. Thailand, which is overwhelmingly Buddhist, is also marketing itself to Muslims as a place where food prepared according to Islamic precepts is readily available and where “halal spas” offer separate facilities for women and men. All the leading shopping malls and the beach resort city of Pattaya have Muslim prayer rooms — a far cry from the widespread anti-Muslim feelings in neighboring Myanmar. The country’s efforts to welcome a broad array of travelers dovetail with longstanding laissez-faire attitudes and traditions of hospitality. But inclusiveness also pays: tourist arrivals have surged in recent years, notably from many predominantly Muslim countries, and the 22 million visitors last year were double the level of a decade ago. Tourism earned the country more than $31 billion last year, according to government statistics. “We live in a country that is open and pretty liberal — I can’t think of a market that we wouldn’t welcome,” said Wisoot Buachoom, the director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s office in the northern city of Chiang Mai, which has seen a rise in Muslim travelers in recent years. Thailand’s campaigns might not raise eyebrows in the West. But among its immediate neighbors, laws against homosexuality and religious or ethnic hostilities keep some tourists away. Malaysia and Indonesia, both Muslim-majority countries, bar Israelis from visiting for political reasons. Thailand, by contrast, has long been one of the most popular destinations for Israeli travelers, with 120,000 Israelis visiting Thailand in 2012. Among Thailand’s Southeast Asian neighbors — Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore — some or all forms of sexual contact between men are illegal, although the laws are loosely or selectively enforced. In Malaysia, the leader of the political opposition, Anwar Ibrahim, has been put on trial twice for sodomy — and twice acquitted. In response to questions sent by e-mail, Malaysia’s tourism authority said it welcomed tourists “without any hesitation, regardless their sexuality.” But in the same e-mail, the tourism official, who gave her name only as Nadia, said, “Malaysia, as an Islamic country, is against the homosexuality.” Thailand’s gay and lesbian campaign, which began two years ago from the Thai tourism promotion office in New York, features a Web site that offers advice to gay travelers, links to a gay travel blog and a promotional video that features gay couples traveling around Thailand and intones, “Go for the freedom.” “Thailand welcomes the gay community,” says a message displayed at the end of the video. “We go after the affluent gay traveler,” said Steve Johnson, a marketing manager who oversees the Thai government’s gay and lesbian campaign from its New York tourism office. Gay men and lesbians often have high levels of disposable income, he said. There are no statistics on the number of gay travelers in Thailand, but a survey carried out by Boutique, a London-based agency specializing in gay marketing, rated Thailand as the “hottest destination” for 2013, ahead of the United States and Argentina, which were ranked second and third. Uwern Jong, managing director of Boutique, said a conservative estimate for the value of gay tourism in Thailand last year was $1.6 billion. (Source)

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