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Queer-friendly Nepal aims to promote ‘pink economy’, ‘rainbow marriages’ for tourists seen as growing segment

In November, Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey made history by becoming the first queer individuals in Nepal to officially register their marriage.

Through their newly founded non-profit group Maya Ko Pahichan – which loosely translates as “recognition of love” – they aspire to attract more LGBTQ travellers as they, and other tourism entrepreneurs and officials in the country, attempt to tap into the multibillion-dollar global market serving this growing customer segment.

“If we promote Nepal as a queer-friendly destination, it will benefit both the LGBTQ community and the country,” Gurung said. “Our marriage has sent a positive message for all queer travellers wanting to visit Nepal.”

Nepal has long lured visitors with its majestic mountains and rich cultural heritage, with thousands of people travelling to the country every year for trekking and sightseeing. While there is no data available on the number of LGBTQ travellers visiting Nepal, tour operators, activists and government officials say Nepal’s progressive laws make it a safe and welcoming destination for queer visitors.

Gurung, a transgender woman, and Pandey, who identifies as a gay man, were able to register their marriage in the Lamjung district, following two failed attempts to do so in Kathmandu.

After the loosening of pandemic-era travel restrictions, the country’s much-battered tourism sector is aiming to increase the diversity of visitors. Tourist couples with double income and no kids — known as DINKs — and others with high-spending power could provide a boost to Nepal’s tourism industry, travel experts said.

Global revenue from the LGBTQ tourism market is projected to rise to over US$610 billion by 2032, according to consultancy and market research firm