Spain a magnet for gay travelers

NEW YORK -- Spain's famed nightlife, vivid landscapes and rich cultural legacy are attracting growing numbers of gay travelers, say industry watchers, and both Spanish tourism officials and U.S. tour operators are encouraging the trend.

"Spain is now the hottest gay destination," said Jim Smith, president of Coda International Tours, a New York luxury operator that's crafted a new, high-end, commissionable tour of Spain via a vintage train.

Indeed, 25% of regular gay travelers polled said they intend to visit Spain within three years, according to a recent study by Community Marketing of San Francisco -- a 91% increase in three years.

Noting the trend, the Tourist Office of Spain launched a "Gay Spain" marketing promotion similar to recent efforts by Great Britain and the Netherlands.

As a start, Ignacio Ducasse, the tourist office's Los Angeles director, has attended gay travel expos and sent travel agents on gay-oriented fams to Barcelona. The next trip is scheduled for spring 2002.

"The gay traveler seems to have a higher tendency to make overseas trips, spend more and have an interest in the type of cultural events and nightlife Spain can offer," Ducasse said. "We believe we can be a successful destination for that market."

Although a gay module for the Spain travel specialist program is not yet available, Ducasse plans gay-oriented seminars for agents -- one in Los Angeles on Sept. 18 and another in San Francisco in either October or November.

More cities will follow next year, he said.

Suppliers also are getting in on the act. Above and Beyond Tours of Palm Springs, Calif., pays 10% commission with overrides on three-night, air-inclusive getaway packages to Madrid and Barcelona.

Through Oct. 31, the year-round tours are priced from $965 per person, double, with departure from Washington, to $1,220 for singles flying from the West Coast. Both include deluxe accommodations, tours, breakfast and local guides.

Above and Beyond also sells land-only ShortStops packages to the two cities as well as to Bilbao, Cordoba, Granada, Ibiza, Seville and Sitges that can be combined into a longer stay.

For its part, Coda International's 11-night Madrid & Andalucia Aboard the Belle-Epoque Style Al Andalus tour, Oct. 28 to Nov. 9, treats well-heeled gay travelers to a top Spanish product, Smith said.

The land-only package, at $3,595 per person, double, pays 8% commission and tacks five-star hotel stays in Madrid and Seville (with high-speed, first class rail between the two) onto six days aboard the vintage Al Andaluso Expresso train.

For more information on Above and Beyond's programs, call (800) 397-2681; e-mail [email protected], or visit

For Coda International, call (888) 677-2632; e-mail [email protected], or visit

For general information on Spain, contact the Tourist Office of Spain at (323) 658-7195.

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