Thailand has long been known as one of the world's most tolerant societies, and this year the Thai tourism sector is working hard to attract tourists from the international GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual) community.Â
Over the last two years, Thailand's Tourism Authority has supported marketing campaigns that directly appeal to GLBT visitors, who are not always quite so welcome in neighbouring countries. In fact, according to travel industry analysts, Thailand is the only Asian country to have a government sponsored campaign aimed specifically at GLBT travellers, and the Go Thai. Be Free" campaign has already proved a success, as have the three annual gay pride events that take place in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket.
"We go after the affluent gay traveller,"Steve Johnson, a marketing manager who manages the TAT's GLBT campaigns from the authority's New York office told the New York Times, adding that gay men and lesbian couples have a high disposable income.Â
Indeed, statistics show that Thailand has achieved 31 billion USD in revenue from GLBT tourism in recent years, with 1.6 billion of last year's revenue coming from the sector. UK-based agency Boutique, which focuses on gay marketing, even singled Thailand out as the hottest gay destination for 2013.Â
"We believe in a country that is open and pretty liberal," said Wisoot Buachoom director of the Chiang Mai office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. "I can't think of a market that we wouldn't welcome."
Long standing attractions such as Phuket's Simon Cabaret show have also helped promote Thailand's GLTB appeal. Now one of the Kingdom's most famous stage performances, the show features an eclectic range of musical genres with transgender artists singing or miming to classic pop hits by celebrated Western divas. Its stars receive bookings from venues around the world.
In the last decade, a number of gay entrepreneurs in Thailand have also launched GLBT-friendly boutiques, hotels, clubs, bars and restaurants and these venues are growing in popularity with local Thais as well as international visitors.