The first Hebrew city wants to be the first gay city. Work is underway in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism to turn Tel Aviv into the international tourist destination for the gay-lesbian community in order to boost business in restaurants, hotels, city attraction sites and beaches.
"Gay tourism has been accelerated lately, and we are entitled to large support from the Tel Aviv Hotels Union and the Ministry of Tourism," Shay Deutsch, spokesperson of the gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual community, said Wednesday.
"Travel agents in Germany, Turkey and Holland have started promoting special weekend packages to Tel Aviv. Even during the large tourism fair in San Francisco in October a stall will represent Israel and distribute leaflets promoting gay tourism in Tel Aviv," Deutsch added.
As part of the fight for pink tourism, a new Israeli-international Web site promoting gay tourism will be launched. Gay Map includes sites in Tel Aviv specialized in gay tourism.
The first shot of the event will be fired in mid May at an academic conference in Eilat part of a gay parade event in the city.
Dr. Yaniv Poria of Ben Gurion University in the Negev will present a study exploring possible links between staying in hotels and sexual orientation. Travel agents from across the world specializing in gay tourism have been invited to the event, which was planned by Tourism Ministry Director General Eli Cohen.
'Like the Olympics'
The event will focus on promoting gay tourism in Tel Aviv after research showed that some 70 million gay people go on holiday abroad every year. The community comprises a large proportion of high-salaried individuals with a developed taste for recreation.
The gay community in the United States is estimated to spend USD 54 billion a year on tourism. The European gay community, research showed, usually looks for urban holiday destinations with plenty of sunshine.
In an effort to boost gay tourism in Tel Aviv, the Gay and Lesbian Union has bid to host in Tel Aviv the 2009 Euro Pride, the largest annual gay parade in the world.
"It is like the Olympics, you present a bid years ahead. An event like this can attract some 20,000 tourists to Tel Aviv," the union said.
Article first published by Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth