Think gay travel hotspots, and you’re likely to think Amsterdam, Berlin or New York. But there’s a new kid on the block, and he’s equally sophisticated, possibly better looking, and probably much warmer: Tel Aviv.
The second largest city in Israel behind Jerusalem, Tel Aviv has quickly grown to become one of the world’s leading gay travel hotspots.
According to the Times of Israel, the city estimates over 50,000 LGBT travellers will land on its shores this year, a figure forecast to double in 2014.
And with its blend of beautiful beaches and thriving nightlife, it isn’t hard to see why the city has fallen under the spotlight of gay tourism.
But despite its obvious attractions, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Tel Aviv; the city had to take on stereotypes that had associated the country with religion and war, as well as towns already established as gay travel meccas, like San Francisco and Sydney.
It wasn’t until the city undertook a focused marketing campaign to lure the LGBT traveller some four years ago, that the city became a real magnet for the gay traveller, the Times reported.
Key to its plan, which was spearheaded by Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai, was an idea to brand Tel Aviv as its own entity, and separately to the rest of the country.
“We knew that people who had been to Tel Aviv loved it,” said Yaniv Waizman, the mayor’s adviser on gay community affairs.
“So we made a switch. We no longer talked about Israel, but Tel Aviv.”
With an original outlay of around $100,000 (a third of the mayor’s tourism budget), gay tourism marketing now commands a budget of a quarter of a million dollars a year, “a fortune by Israeli standards,” says Mr Waizman.
But it is money well spent: in 2011, just three years into the campaign, Tel Aviv was named the gayest city in the world by a survey conducted by American Airlines and Gaycities.com.
“Hotels in Tel Aviv are now asking for more rainbow flags because they are filled with gay tourists.” Mr Huldai said.
Israel Rodrigue, manager at Ofakim, Israel’s biggest travel agency, confirmed to the Times of Israel that it too was feeling the increase in gay tourism.
“Last year we sold about 300 gay tours,” Mr Rodrigue said.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: M.H