LGBT tourism’s day in the sun

BANGKOK, 12 March 2018: Thailand emerges from the proverbial closet by endorsing LGBT tourism for the first time in its role of official “Presenting Partner of ITB Berlin 2018 LGBT Travel”.

ITB Berlin News called the endorsement a milestone for the Tourism Authority of Thailand in its marketing efforts.

LGBT refers to the gender designations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. 

The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s new marketing campaign “Open to the New Shades” was described as the platform for the TAT to finally come out and target the vast potential of the LGBT travel community.

Unofficially, Thailand enjoys popularity with the LGBT community. But it is a stretch to call Thailand a gay-friendly destination and the ITB News assertion that Thailand has a deep-rooted culture of tolerance for the gay community could be contested as superficial.

Critics may disagree on the degree and nature of Thai tolerance with reference to LGBT tourism, but until recently tourism authorities certainly frowned on the idea of openly promoting the segment.

Times are changing and the ITB Berlin’s news channel said TAT is now highlighting the country’s LGBT community in promotions. However, they are probably presentations groomed for a liberal ITB Berlin that might not quite make the journey back home to Thailand.

It was argued that its recent advertising campaign, themed “Open to the New Shades,” invites travellers to discover their own Thailand, and one of the video shots shows a male couple going clubbing and watching a sunrise in northern Thailand together.

“TAT is actually honoured to be part of the LGBT Travel at ITB Berlin 2018 and to have been named ITB Berlin LGBT Presenting Partner,” said TAT governor, Yuthasak Supasorn. “Without a doubt the LGBT market has always been an important travel segment for Thailand and we will continue our efforts to position Thailand as a leading destination for the LGBT community in Southeast Asia”.

Some years back, the level of tolerance for the LGBT market was tested when a TAT director in New York was quoted saying she supported the idea of promoting and encouraging LGBT travel to Thailand from the US in marketing initiatives. Such sentiments were given short shift back in TAT’s head office.

The new advertising campaign ‘Open to new shades’ appears to have lifted the blinkers to allow TAT to assume the role of an official LGBT presenting partner in the liberal hallways of ITB Berlin.

Whether that gesture will lead to more same-sex weddings events and festivals in Thailand adopting the LGBT message remains to be seen.

It could ultimately become a theme for a travel show following the success of golf, romance and adventure-themed marts in the past.

The 2018 Thailand Travel Mart will be hosted this June in Pattaya, the birthplace of transgender and transvestite musical concerts. While the mart will focus on travel firms selling romance, honeymoons and weddings, the invitation is unlikely to extend to LGBT travel firms.


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