The tourist boards of most Latin American countries don't include the gay and lesbian market in their tourism marketing strategies. But that's not the case with Embratur, Brazil's official tourism organization.

brazil-rioPlano Aquarela, Embratur's marketing plan, includes the gay and lesbian niche (which it calls GLS or GLBT) as an integral part of its strategy, and tourism officials work directly with Abrat GLS, an association of Brazilian tourism businesses, suppliers and officials, to make sure that the destination is known as gay-friendly.

Abrat GLS, founded a little more than three years go, now has more than 100 members, including Sofitel, Golden Tulip, TAM Brazilian Airlines and numerous travel agencies and tour operators. The organization also offers gay marketing and sensitivity training programs for hotels and travel-oriented businesses.

To help get the word out, Embratur last year for the first time co-sponsored a press trip for international gay journalists, in conjunction with G Brazil, a Rio de Janeiro-based tour operator. Embratur has also created a website, www.theloveland.net, that features information about Sao Paulo's annual gay pride parade and other events.

What makes Brazil a good destination for gay travelers? Part of it is the quantity of gay-popular events and gay-friendly destinations. There are some 400 gay and lesbian events throughout Brazil year-round, according to government figures, offering plenty of options for travelers looking for a gay-friendly environment.

According to tourism estimates, the U.S. is Brazil's No. 1 source of gay travelers, followed by Germany, Argentina, Spain, the U.K. and France. The most-visited Brazilian destinations for gay travelers include Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Florianopolis, Salvador and Recife, according to Embratur.

The ABCs of GLBT

Geraldo Bentes, Embratur's marketing director, spoke about how his organization targets the gay niche.

Travel Weekly: How and when did Embratur's working relationship with Abrat GLS start?

Bentes: The relationship between Embratur and Abrat GLS started with the parade in Sao Paulo in 2006. Embratur started promoting it as being the largest [gay pride] parade in the whole world, attracting more than 3.5 million people. After this very unique and close union, we began to have a very good relationship and to organize and plan strategies and promotion together concerning this specific niche market. For the future, we intend to create a GLBT bureau that will receive investments from the Ministry of Tourism and work to make the experience of these tourists in Brazil something they will never forget.

TW: Do you have any figures to show what percentage of your foreign visitors are GLBT? 

Bentes: Unfortunately, we do not have this percentage. The tourist entrance number in Brazil since 2003 has increased more than 20%. We intend to start measuring these [gay tourism] numbers. 

TW: How did Embratur decide that the gay market was worth targeting?

Bentes: We always knew about the potential of this niche, but as we follow very strictly the instructions and recommendations of our international marketing plan, Plano Aquarela, our investments at first were concentrated on five segments: sun and beach, ecotourism, sports, culture and business events. After the update of the plan in 2006, specific niches [including] GLBT, backpackers and honeymoon have been introduced. The GLBT tourist is friendly, polite, and Brazil has lots of things to offer to them. The Brazilian Tourist Board focuses on this [group of travelers] and welcomes them here in Brazil with open arms.

For more on Brazil, contact Embratur at (646) 378-2126 or visit www.braziltour.com. For more about Abrat GLS and gay travel to Brazil, visit www.abratgls.com.br. For more about G Brazil Turismo, visit www.gbrazil.com.

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