Gay travel advice and information
GETA - the Gay European Tourism Association recently estimated the size of the Gay Travel market in Europe to be over €50b. In truth, that may well be a conservative estimate, and in all likelihood the amount is growing - and growing fast. As more gays and lesbians come out, thanks to increasingly liberal attitudes across the continent, the amount spent on ‘gay travel’ in Europe goes up. Part of the huge size of the gay travel market in Europe is due to the fact that gays are still far less likely to have children, and so have much higher disposable incomes - much of which gets spent travelling. So gays travel more often, they go further, and spend more on flights, hotels, food and shopping when they do. As homophobia recedes in most of western Europe (even as it rises in eastern Europe), mainstream tourism offices and travel companies are waking up to the fact that gay travel is huge business in Europe - and a huge opportunity. Airlines, hotel groups, car hire companies and travel operators are all realising that there’s money to be made from the gay market, and that marketing specifically to them will no longer threaten their brands. As Carlos Kytka, Executive Director of GETA says: “It used to be that running a travel ad with two men in it was marketing suicide. Now, airlines and hotels can run gay-themed ads, even in mainstream media, and their straight customers just don’t care. So the highly profitable market for gay travel is now one that mainstream brands can tap into.”
Gay travel is getting gayer
Until recently, gay travel in Europe wasn’t necessarily ‘gay’. Gays and lesbians travelled much like heterosexuals - they would fly to non-gay destinations, stay in non-gay hotels, and spend most of their time in non-gay bars, restaurants and shops. But the travelling that gays do is getting ‘gayer’. Whereas once there were only a handful of gay guesthouses and B&Bs scattered around Europe, there are now gay hotel chains (Axel Hotels in Barcelona and Berlin) and increasing numbers of more upmarket gay guesthouses and boutique hotels popping up in cities, along the coasts and in the countryside of most European countries. Gay travel magazines are proliferating - with Out Traveller in the USA and Spartacus Traveller magazines joining the Spartacus guides, giving gay travellers endless options for spending their travel dollars, euros and pounds. And once on holiday, gays and lesbians now spend more time going to gay events, restaurants, bars, clubs, saunas and shops when travelling than ever before.
Gay cruises & tours
One of the biggest developments in gay travel in the past few years has been the growth in gay cruises and tours. You can view all of the gay cruises and tours planned this year in Europe by visiting our Cruises, Tours & Holidays page. You’ll immediately see that it’s a very vibrant sector of the European gay travel market, with huge Atlantis cruises competing with smaller Blue Danube cruises, wine and gastronomy tours jostling with Mediterranean party holidays. As with so many commercial trends, much of the growth in gay cruises and tours comes from the USA, where gay cruises have been booming for a few years now. What were once considered large cruises of a few hundred gay guests are now dwarfed by Atlantis and RSVP cruises of many thousands - enormous floating hotels packed with gay men, entertained by A-list stars and the world’s top DJs. Many of the tours organised within Europe for gays and lesbians are also spearheaded by American tour companies, keen to package up the best of Europe for their wealthy gay clients. ‘Olivia’ - an American tour company catering to lesbians - now operates a very slick and professional operation. But increasingly, European’s themselves are joining in on the act, with French-only cruises in the Mediterranean, the RYANA holiday in Corfu, and other event-based holidays such as Mr Gay Europe, Sugarland in Antwerp, and Tel Aviv pride drawing in thousands of visitors from all over the world.
Gay travel in Europe is becoming increasingly events-based, with huge pride festivals (such as Barcelona and Madrid) becoming holiday playgrounds for tens of thousands of gay and lesbian travellers from all over the world - keen to experience the buzz of the march and associated partying. Huge circuit festivals, such as the Circuit Festival, Barcelona, seem to get bigger and flashier every year. Then there are the sports events - such as the Gay Games; beauty pageants such as Mr Gay Europe; and other huge festivals such as Mike Shake, Queen’s Day, Pink Lake, Gay Oktoberfest and the Dunas Festival in the Canary Islands - all promising the opportunity to be amongst literally thousands of other gay people looking to party. Big events are typically made up of lots of smaller events - such as dinners, clubbing nights, tours, shows etc… And increasingly, event organisers are also offering accommodation and even flights. (For a comprehensive list of gay and gay-friendly events in Europe, visit Gay Welcome's Gay Events Calendar >)
There have always been ‘gay destinations’ in Europe. Mykonos has long been a favourite, for example, for gay travellers looking to escape the cold of northern Europe and get some sun with fellow gay travellers. And Amsterdam has always attracted gays looking to let it all out and be gay in an open, liberal atmosphere. But more gay destinations in Europe have been added to the map in recent years, as more and more gay and lesbian travellers look to travel to gay ‘centres’ that allow those on holiday to spend their time with like-minded people in a relaxed, non-judgemental environment. Tel Aviv, for example, has marketed itself as one of Europe’s new gay destinations, with a fast-expanding Pride festival and as a stop for gay cruises. Cities such as Antwerp in Belgium and Reykjavik in Iceland have also done much to attract gay travel. The Languedoc region of southern France is becoming more popular with gays too - thanks to guesthouses such as Cinq & Sept and The Lotus Tree. At last, CVBs (Convention and Visitors Bureaux) are realising that gay travel is worth millions - and more and more are developing huge marketing campaigns to woo gay travellers to their cities and regions.
About Gay Welcome's Gay Travel Guides
Gay travel is on the rise - all over the world. But what does that mean exactly? Are gay people travelling more. Probably not. But a larger proportion of their travel time is now 'gay travel' time - in greater numbers and at a greater frequency, they're going on ‘gay holidays’, ‘gay cruises’, participating in ‘gay events’, and staying in ‘gay hotels’. As Europe and the rest of the world becomes increasingly gay-friendly, the concept of gay travel becomes all the more acceptable and fun in the eyes of gay travellers. Why just travel to Barcelona, when you can travel to Barcelona to attend gay pride, stay in a gay hotel and meet up with lots of like-minded gay travellers in a gay bar? It doesn’t mean that every trip you take has to be gay, but it’s nice to know that you can go down the gay travel route should you want to - and the Gay Welcome site is there to make such gay holidays as easy and fun to plan as possible.
A gay travel guide for every occasion
Clearly the Gay Welcome website is dedicated to all aspects of gay travel within Europe - everything from helping you find a gay hotel or (actively) gay-friendly hotel, gay events at your chosen destination, as well as track down the perfect gay cruise, tour or holiday. This particular section of our gay travel site is dedicated to ‘Gay Destination Guides’ - information on all those favourite places to visit across Europe, from the top gay cities such as Amsterdam, London, Barcelona, Berlin, Madrid, Paris and Stockholm (and many others), to favourite seaside towns, islands and countryside destinations - from the old favourites of Mykonos, Sitges and Gran Canaria, to up-and-coming areas such as Reykjavik, Prague, Tel Aviv and Montpellier. Over time, we’ll be adding more and more gay travel guides to this section of the site - written by insiders with local knowledge of the best gay bars, gay saunas, gay beaches and gay shops and restaurants.
How are our gay travel guides different?
There are lots of ‘destination guides’ covering the top gay travel destinations across Europe, and the world. But most of them are pretty shoddy - quickly put together, usually from information taken from other websites, with bad photos, not enough events, weedy listings and links to big mainstream hotel websites full of Marriotts and Hiltons (rather than actually gay-friendly hotels.). Overall, for the gay traveller, these guides aren’t terribly helpful and don’t inspire much enthusiasm for the destination you’re reading about.
A different type of gay travel guide
So we decided to do gay travel guides differently. With literally millions of gay people travelling into and within Europe every year, we wanted to help you have as good a gay holiday as possible. Our ‘Gay Travel Guides' do just that - giving you all the information you need. Each is broken down into a 4-tab page. The first ‘OVERVIEW’ tab covers general travel information on the destination, rather than just gay travel info. It highlights the main places to visit and a little history of the place. The second tab ‘GAY LIFE’ - covers the destination from a gay travel angle. It lists and maps the top bars, clubs, saunas, beaches, restaurants etc. It’s on this page that you’ll find listings of gay and gay-friendly events at the destination. Under the 3rd tab, ‘GAY HOTELS’ - you’ll find a list of genuinely gay-only, ‘actively gay-friendly’ and other gay-friendly hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses at this destination. Finally, under the ‘HOT TIPS’ tab, we cover our recommendations on everything from how to organise a ‘hook up’ to the best local magazines and websites to track down the very latest information on gay bars, gay clubs, gay saunas and shops.
Gay events with a difference
Our Gay Events calendar is the biggest of its kind in Europe (and probably the world). We think gay events are key to the gay travel experience, as more and more gay travellers choose destinations because of an event that might be happening there. And even if the event isn’t the main reason for traveling to a particular city or seaside resort, it’s nice to know what gay events might be on while you’re there. But our gay travel website goes three steps beyond most sites when it comes to gay travel events. Firstly, we list far more events than other gay websites. Secondly, our gay events are now integrated into each of our gay guides, so you can see what’s on while reading about the destination’s bars, beaches and history. And thirdly, we don’t only list gay events - we’ve also cherry-picked those events that we feel complement gay travel - mainstream events that we know gay travellers are likely to find interesting. Everything from a Lady Gaga concert to a fetish pride event to big sports events (such as the Tour de France) to Opera seasons at the world’s top opera houses.
The future of gay travel
The future is bright - the future is pink. We think gay travel as a concept is going to continue to grow. Whereas it was one thought gay people would becoming decreasingly ‘ghettoised’ - the opposite has proved to be true. With growing acceptance, gays feel more able to travel and play together all over the world, going on gay cruises, going to gay pride festivals, attending a gay culinary tour perhaps or a week of gay clubbing somewhere in the sun. And as the appetite for travelling with other ‘birds of a feather’ grows, the gay travel industry rises to challenge to offer even bigger gay cruises and tours and events and hotels - stoking demand still future. And we’ll be there to map it all out for you and make sure you get the very best of what gay travel has to offer.