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Gay holidays in Europe - a booming market

For many gay men and women, the thought of a ‘gay holiday’ sends shudders down their spine. “Why would I need to spend my holiday with lots of other gay people?” Despite the reluctance on the part of many, the concept of the ‘gay holiday’ is actually catching on. It’s odd, because as gay people become more accepted, they are eschewing the ‘gay ghetto’ of gay bars and clubs and increasingly mixing with their straight friends. So why are they doing the very opposite when it comes to travel?

 

Perhaps it’s the appeal of letting your hair down when visiting a strange country. We may feel comfortable in our own cities and towns, but travelling means taking yourself out of your comfort zone, and a gay holiday ensures you’re surrounded by like-minded people. Most gays and lesbians have experienced some form of homophobia whilst abroad, be it incredulity at the check-in desk when they ask for a double bed. Or funny looks and tutting when holding hands around the hotel pool.

 

Not all gay people’s holidays are gay, of course. But a growing percentage of the gay community are making gay holidays a big part of their travel. Feeling ‘safe’ isn’t the only reason, of course. There’s just something about the ‘gay dynamic’ when you’re on holiday. It’s that ‘birds of a feather’ experience that we all crave now and then. Just as a group of women on a ‘hen do’ might not want their men to come along, or a bunch of straight guys might want to go skiing with ‘just us guys’ - gays and lesbians sometimes just want it to be solely gay affair. It’s a different dynamic - the gay sensibility perhaps, or gay sense of humour - being able to camp (or butch) it up and not have to worry about what others might be thinking. So despite our increasingly enlightened times - the gay holiday looks set to stay. And even thrive.

 

Europe's Gay Holiday industry

And the gay holiday industry is meeting the challenge. As is often the case, gay holidays took off in a big way first in the USA - where gay tour operators and gay cruise organisers have been putting together bigger and bigger ‘events’. Atlantis Events’ gay cruises are now huge - with over 5,000 gays (mostly men) partying their way around Caribbean and Mediterranean and many other destinations around the world. The company also runs gay resort weeks. And from the US, gay tour operators also organise a wide range of gay holidays all over the world - from gay cooking classes in Thailand to gay biking holidays in France.

 

The Europeans are starting to catch up, however. Pink Iceland, organised each year from Reykjavik, means you can frolic in the steam baths of ancient volcanoes and ride 4x4s up Icelandic mountains with a group of other gay holiday-makers. Other European gay holidays include ‘Rainbow Fuerteventura’ in the Canary Islands, the Solar Festival in Eilat Israel, or the RYANA gay package holiday in Rhodes.

 

Gay travel goes niche

As the gay holiday industry balloons, so it starts to fragment. Gay holidays targeted at sub-groups have proliferated - such as gay bear cruises, leather festivals, clubbing weekends (such as the Circuit Party in Barcelona) for the ‘circuit boys’ and Lesbian cruises up the Rhône river in France. Gay ski weeks, which started in the US in places such as Aspen, have crossed the Atlantic - and there are now about 6-8 organised each year in the Alps. Event-based gay holidays are also growing. Gay beauty patents (Mr Gay Europe and Mr Gay World), sports events (the Gay Games, Smashing Pink Tennis), and holidays organised to coincide with gay pride marches, are all catching on.

 

Gay holiday accommodation

In times gone by, a ‘gay hotel’ conjured up images of doors ajar and orgies by the pool. There are still a fair number of gay guesthouses and B&Bs that offer a very sexual holiday experience, but increasingly gay accommodation is going up-market and down-sexual, with hotels such as the Axel group, the Elysium Hotel in Mykonos and guesthouses such as ‘Cinq & Sept’ in the south of France offering 4 and 5-star accommodation and facilities to gay visitors who want to relax in a convivial atmosphere without a lot of sexual tension. Gay-only accommodation is holding its own, just as gay-friendly hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses proliferate. Gays now zero in on gay-friendly accommodation for trips to cities, for business trips or for their more ‘mainstream’ holidays, while booking into gay-only hotels and guesthouses for when they want that ‘gay holiday’.

 

Using Gay Welcome to plan a Gay Holiday

Gay Welcome was designed for those of you wanting to organise a gay holiday in Europe. Our Gay Hotel listings make it easy to find gay-only, actively gay-friendly and other gay-friendly hotels - across Europe. They give plenty of information on each property, as well as photos. If you’re interested in Gay Cruises, Gay Tours or Gay Package Holidays, click the 3rd tab along the top of the site ‘CRUISES / TOURS’. Here you’ll see maps showing all the major gay cruises, tours and holidays planned across Europe, with further details beneath. You can then read up on the continent’s main gay areas in the Gay Destination Guides section (4th tab along) - and ensure you find the best bars and clubs, shops and restaurants and things to do. Our Gay Events calendar is the biggest in the world - with literally hundreds of events, all easily searchable. If you’re organising a gay holiday, you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss any great gay events that might be on when you visit. And lastly our Gay Shop is the perfect place to buy a new swimsuit, travel guide or anything else for your trip.

 

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