Ever since the gay and lesbian market began attracting the
attention of "mainstream" suppliers in the early 1990s, one thing
has been a sure bet: every new year witnesses the entry of new tour
operators into the market.
Some of the newest additions to the North American gay and
lesbian market are British Airways Holidays, German tour operator
Holigays and San Francisco-based Venture Out. Long-standing
companies such as Family Abroad and Hanns Ebensten, meanwhile,
continue to expand and diversify their offerings.
Several destinations continue to build their popularity as gay
and lesbian hot spots. Amsterdam is sure to be a popular
destination this year, especially during the time surrounding the
1998 Gay Games Aug. 1 to 8.
In addition to the perennially popular destinations -- such as
Australia, Florida, Hawaii and Western Europe -- tour operators are
also offering a greater variety of packages to up-and-coming places
like Russia, Asia and Latin America.
Following are highlights of some of the programs for this
Above and Beyond Tours. San Francisco-based Above and Beyond is
featuring the following tour packages:Amsterdam Gay Games, July 31 to Aug. 9. Packages start at $835,
double.A post-Gay Games package, called Cycle Holland, runs from Aug.
9 to 16, beginning in Amsterdam, for a land-only rate of $1,325,
double.A variety of group and independent departures to the South
Pacific, Europe and Latin America.
Alyson Adventures. Alyson's package tours include a diving trip
to Saba; bicycling in France's Loire Valley, and trips to Australia
and France's Cote d'Or.
Atlantis Events. Atlantis specializes in all-gay charters of
resorts and cruise ships. This year's remaining schedule features
all-inclusive Club Atlantis packages at Blue Bay Village, on
Mexico's Pacific coast (Manzanillo).
British Airways Holidays. British Airways has announced its
support of the Rainbow Card, a Visa card co-founded by tennis pro
Martina Navratilova, that funds causes of interest to the lesbian
and gay community. This follows British Airways Holidays'
introduction of gay and lesbian departures of its South African
Club LeBon. Club LeBon will offer a variety of packages
specializing in lesbian travel and travel for gay people with
Connections Tours. Miami Beach, Fla.-based Connections is a
receptive tour operator selling Florida vacations to destinations
including Orlando and the Miami area. A Cancun package is also
Damron Atlas World Travel. Damron is planning trips to
Venezuela, the hill tribes of Indonesia and the White Party (a
charity event) in Miami. Additional tours focus on Shamans and
Medicine Journeys in Central America, the Thailand Party (another
charity fundraiser) and whale watching season in Maui.
David's Trips & Tours. David's, based in Corona del Mar,
Calif., is offering the following tours:Trips to Hungary and the Czech Republic.Multiple departures to South Africa (including a South African
New Year's trip).A Halloween package tour to New Orleans.
Departures International. A specialist in escorted tours to
Russia, Departures International is planning two gay and lesbian
community tours that will focus on the art, the architecture and
the people of Russia. The eight-day trips include city tours of
Moscow and St. Petersburg, and visits to major historic sites. The
land-only price is $788, per person, double. Travelers also have
the option of extending their visit in Moscow or St. Petersburg, or
adding a two-night visit to Kiev.
Different Roads Travel. A division of New York City-based Tzell
Travel Specialists, this operator is dedicated exclusively to the
gay and lesbian community. Plans call for two spa retreat packages
to Cuernavaca and Acapulco, Mexico from May 16 to 23 starting at
$1,599. Different Roads Travel also offers packages to the 1998 Gay
Games in Amsterdam with air packages starting at $800.
Doin' It Right. Doin' It Right specializes in Mexico, and
promoting Puerto Vallarta as the most gay-friendly destination in
the country. Villas and hotel packages are available.
European Gayways. This tour operator is offering packages to the
Gay Games which will be held in Amsterdam.
Family Abroad. New York City-based Family Abroad offers a wide
range of escorted tours to Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and
the Caribbean. Some are combined land/cruise tours, visiting
locations such as Alaska, Greece and Egypt. The supplier has a
promotional video available, for a nominal fee, that highlights
their products and services.
For 1998, Family Abroad is offering trips to Australia, Hong
Kong, India, Nepal, Peru, Greece, France, Scandinavia, St.
Petersburg, the British Islands, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Turkey and
South Africa. Event packages include trips to the Gay Games in
Amsterdam and Carnival in the Canary Islands. A safari trip to
Kenya and Tanzania is also available.
Cruises include:An "Orient Explorer" cruise that visits Hong Kong, Vietnam,
Thailand and other destinations.A Costa Rica cruise.A "Burgundy Barge Cruise and Paris" package.
Good Time Tours. This Miami Beach-based operator is arranging
packages for the eighth annual Gay and Lesbian Day at the Magical
Kingdom (That Walt Built), a reference to the annual event when
thousands of gays and lesbians visit Walt Disney World. The event
is slated for June 6. Prices start at $169, land only.
Hanns Ebensten Travel. One of the pioneers in the gay travel
market, Hanns Ebensten continues to offer tours to a variety of
destinations in 1998. Included are a safari in Africa, a cruise to
the Galapagos Islands, an Easter trip to Easter Island and a Grand
Holigays Worldwide Travel. Holigays Weltweit Reisen GmbH, a
Cologne, Germany-based tour operator, opened its North American
subsidiary in June 1997. The company offers tour packages to
Europe, Australia, Bali and Costa Rica.
L'Arc en Ciel. Switzerland is the newest destination for L'Arc
en Ciel Voyages, thanks to a new partnership with Swissair.
Packages feature gay pride celebrations in July and a hiking tour
through the Swiss Alps in September.
The company also promotes packages to Iceland via Icelandair.
L'Arc is the North American representative for Iceland's only gay
L'Arc has also worked with the City of Berlin, Germany, and the
German National Tourist Office to offer gay and lesbian packages to
Other trips include skiing and packages to a variety of
gay-popular events in Europe, including Queens Day in Amsterdam,
Bastille Day in Paris, gay pride and New Year's Eve in Iceland and
Christmas shopping in London. L'Arc en Ciel is also a wholesaler
for the 1998 Gay Games.
To celebrate the turning of the century, L'Arc is offering a
trip to Sydney, Australia for a large-scale New Year's party,
followed immediately by a plane ride to Honolulu, across the
International Dateline, to celebrate the turning of the century for
a second time.
Mariah Wilderness Expeditions. A specialist in women-only
adventure travel, Mariah is offering three- and four-day rafting
trips in southern Oregon, northeastern Utah and California's
Men On Vacation. Men On Vacation is an official tour operator
for the Gay Games, with eight-night packages priced at $849, per
person, double. Additional destinations include Australia and the
Mi Casa Su Casa. This Oakland, Calif.-based company arranges
lesbian- and gay-friendly home exchanges in the U.S. and
Ocean Voyager. Ocean Voyager arranges hosted gay groups on
cruises, including a seven-day Alaska inside passage cruise aboard
Celebrity's Galaxy on July 31. Prices start at $1,349, double.
Pied Piper Travel. Pied Piper is a New York City-based travel
agency specializing in gay group cruises, many of which take place
on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2. Included for 1998 are itineraries to
Bermuda and Christmas/ New Year's cruises to the Caribbean, as well
as transatlantic and New England/Canada cruises.
Port Yacht Charters. This Long Island, N.Y.-based company
arranges all-inclusive private yacht charters to a variety of
destinations, including the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Agents
become preferred suppliers, earning a 12% commission instead of the
standard 10%, upon their fourth booking. American Airlines
AAdvantage miles are also available as an incentive.
Progressive Travels. Progressive is a mainstream operator that
offers gay and lesbian active adventure travel packages. Offerings
include:Biking and walking in Tuscany, Italy; Provence, France, and the
Pacific Northwest.A yachting tour along the Turquoise coast of Turkey.A Nile cruise in Egypt.
Robin Tyler International Tours. Robin Tyler is offering two
tours to the Amsterdam Gay Games: a women-only tour and a "Gold
Medal" tour (including men); both featuring accommodations at the
five-star Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky. This nine-night package starts
at $2,499 per person, double.
Royal Hawaiian Weddings. Royal Hawaiian arranges gay and
straight marriages and commitment ceremonies on the island of
RSVP. RSVP is offering a series of cruises to the Caribbean, the
Mexican Riviera and Alaska. In addition:Club RSVP features all-inclusive holidays at Mexican
resorts.Plaanet RSVP offers air and ground specials on independent
travel in the U.S. and European destinations.
Skylink Travel. Skylink's women-only tours for 1998 include
visits to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah; Dinah Shore Women's
Week in Palm Springs, Calif., and a Kenya photo safari with the
optional add-on of Uganda gorilla trekking. Skylink also offers Gay
Spirit Journeys. Spirit Journeys offers a variety of workshops,
retreats and adventure trips, with a focus on spiritual
development. Destinations for 1998 include the U.S., India and
Thanks, Babs. Berkeley, Calif.-based Thanks, Babs is offering
the following trip:Summer Alaskan Cultural Journeys, from May to September, with
activities arranged according to interests of participants.
Toto Tours. Toto Tours offers about 20 tours per year, including
active adventures such as hiking and biking.
They publish a quarterly travel agent newsletter with updates on
Among the offerings for 1998:Whale watching excursions in Magdalena Bay/Baja, Mexico, and in
Maui, Hawaii.A tour of the Garden Island of Kauai, Hawaii.Beach and inland tours of Costa Rica.
Undersea Expeditions. Specializing in scuba and snorkel
vacations, Undersea Expeditions is offering tours to Curacao,
Hawaii, Belize and Egypt's Red Sea in 1998.
Venture Out. A start-up tour company based in San Francisco,
Venture Out specializes in adventure and cultural tours for small
groups of gay and lesbian travelers. Destinations include Costa
Rica, Indonesia, Tuscany and South Africa.
Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. Windjammer is offering one
gay-specific cruise in 1998, a six-day tall-ship adventure
launching on Nov. 8 in the Caribbean.
Woodswomen. Woods-women offers a variety of outdoor vacations
for women only (gay, straight and bisexual). Activities include
backpacking, bicycling, canoeing, dogsledding and hiking.
Destinations include the Caribbean, the western U.S., Canada and