Tel Aviv to Become Gay Capital of the World?
Tel Aviv is known throughout the world as "The White City" due to the many Bauhaus-style structures that adorn its streets, but the city may soon be called "The Pink City," as tourism industry heads are planning on transforming the city into the gay capital of the world, Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
"Tel Aviv and gay people are a perfect fit," an Israel Hotel Association (IHA) official said.
The idea was born when IHA Director-General Eli Ziv visited London recently to participate in the 2005 World Travel Market exhibition.
During the exhibition Ziv met with representatives of the homo-lesbian travel industry, and discovered an audience that would travel just about anywhere for a good party, even to the Middle East.
"The gay community has amazing consumer power, and Tel Aviv has a lot to offer to this community," Ziv explained.
"We have the beach, sun, culture and nightclubs. To our knowledge, gays are capable of hopping on a plane and traveling to the other side of the world just to participate in parties and events that are related to the gay community."
The IHA in Tel Aviv, along with a local gay rights group, turned to European travel agents who focus on the gay community and requested they prepare vacation packages to Tel Aviv.
"We are drafting plans to encourage gay tourism from Germany, England and Holland," Ziv added.
"We plan on approaching travel agents who are aware of the gay community's needs, launch a special website for gays and advertise Tel Aviv in gay European websites as well.
Jerusalem is scheduled to host the 2006 World Pride Parade , but Ziv is already working to have it moved to Tel Aviv.
"This event could mark the grand opening for homosexual events in the city," he said. "We need the boost."
Meanwhile, Tourism Ministry Director-General Eli Cohen said he would offer any financial assistance necessary to turn Tel Aviv into the gay capital of the world, and he is not alone: TUI, Europe's largest tourism conglomerate, has recently decided to offer charter flights to Tel Aviv. Israeli tourism officials said they believe the decision would facilitate the travel of thousands of gays to the country.
Today TUI offers a roundtrip ticket on a weekly charter flight to Israel for 150-200 euros (about USD 176-234).
"It will be helpful to our initiative if they increase the number of flights to Tel Aviv,' Ziv said.
"Now the occupancy rate on these flights already stands at more than 80 percent for the next few months. In February they plan to increase the number of flights to three a week. If this will indeed happen, we will see an airlift of gays to Tel Aviv."