Nearly 200,000 visitors from the sexual minority community, mostly from India, are expected to visit Nepal this year and authorities are planning to bring special packages to promote the country as an upcoming LGBT travel destination.

Nearly a million tourists are expected in the country during the Nepal Tourism Year (NTY) 2011.

“We are preparing to bring in more and more gay tourists as there is a friendly atmosphere for the sexual minority in the country and we hope that 20 per cent of the tourists visiting Nepal will be from the LGBT community,” Sunil Babu Pant, who is the country’s first openly gay parliamentarian, said.

Most of the gay tourists coming to the country are from India. Due to easy access and geographical closeness, more Indians are planning to visit Nepal this year, he said.

Mr. Pant, who is also the president of the Blue Diamond Society that works promotes the rights of sexual minorities, said there will be special package for tourists interested in Buddhism, yoga and meditation.

“We are also planning to offer special packages in trekking, hiking and pilgrimage for the gays and lesbians,” he said.

In a landmark verdict on December 21, 2007, Nepal’s Supreme Court had directed the government to provide citizenship to the third sex.

The National Bureau of Statistics is also commencing census exercise from May with inclusion of a new category for the third gender for the first time.

“We are also planning to organize more same sex marriages during the NTY,” Mr. Pant said, adding, authorities have received booking for many such marriages and more are expected during the year.

Pink Mountain Travels and Tour is making arrangements for gay visitors during the year.

“We will welcome all tourists to Nepal including gay and lesbian,” media consultant of Nepal Tourism Board Sarad Pradhan said, adding, “We will provide good treatment to them. We do not discriminate between tourists on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

The Board is preparing for the grand launch of the NTY 2011 at Dasharath Stadium here on January 14 by President Ram Baran Yadav in a function attended by tourism ministers from all the eight SAARC countries.

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