ormer travel agent Ray Modesto is on a
mission to promote gay and lesbian travel to the Dominican
The sales and marketing director of New York-based Amigos Tours
said he is confident the island is ripe for this niche market.
"We really want to change the image of the Dominican Republic
with the gay community," Modesto said, adding that his firm relies
on gay and lesbian clients for about 65% of its business.
Modesto, a native Dominican, said his motivation to promote the
destination to gay and lesbian travelers came from personal
experience as well as his background as an agent.
"Four years ago, my boyfriend and I wanted to go somewhere to
celebrate our anniversary," he said. "And I thought, what better
than to take him to my country and meet my family?"
After searching the Internet, Modesto found that "nobody knew
anything about gay-friendly accommodations [on the island]. But I
was sure I wasn't the only person interested in gay travel to the
When Amigos Tours began operations in February 2000, Modesto
used his agent skills to put together gay-specific tour packages
and build a roster of gay-friendly hotels.
There are no openly gay-owned hotels in the Dominican Republic,
he said, but "right now, we represent over 65 hotels, from
bed-and-breakfasts to inclusives."
Modesto said that Amigos Tours' gay-specific plans differ from
"We offer our clients a gay-friendly environment," he said. "In
a way we have trained [suppliers], made them more sensitive about
dealing with gay and lesbian travelers."
In addition, packages include the services of a gay tour guide
and visits to gay-friendly businesses in the capital of Santo
Domingo. Complimentary passes to local nightclubs also are often
Still, Modesto said many of the main selling points for this
destination are attractions that appeal to any traveler regardless
of sexual orientation.
"There are beaches as well as white-water rafting, camping and
scuba diving," he said.
And experiencing such attractions in a gay-friendly environment,
Modesto said, can make the trip especially enjoyable.
To promote his firm, Modesto attends gay and lesbian travel
expos as well as mainstream events like the Dominican Annual
Plans call for developing a section of the company's Web site,
at www.amigostours.com, to offer more information to gay
and lesbian travelers, including listings of gay-friendly
properties, attractions and events.