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There’s a new rainbow rising over Nepal.

This is Sandip Roy in Kathmandu

The Himalayan country has always been known for tourism - Mountains forests old capital cities and Buddhist stupas. As Nandini Lahe-Thapa, the officiating CEO of Nepal Tourism Board puts it Nepal has three-in-one appeal

NLT1: Speaker1: The nature, culture and adventure products. And out of the pristine natural treasures and socio cultural unity and diversity. Nepal has both comparative and competitive advantage over many other destinations, with so much variety and so little landmass.

It draws trekkers, adventure tourists, families, honeymooners, senior tour groups. Now it wants LGBTI tourists. At the first ever Rainbow Tourism International conference in Kathmandu last week attended by ministers, activists, tourism operators, even a Supreme Court judge, Nepal Tourist board director Lahe-Thapa even wore a bright pink sari to signal that Nepal wants to roll out the pink carpet.

NLT2:. This is a huge tourism market which Nepal has not actively targeted. 
But again, I want to emphasize that Nepal has been very advanced in these matters compared to many countries in the neighbourhood

Nepal’s constitution protects sexual minorities. Most recently after a long struggle Nepal registered its first same sex marriage, something India next door has refused to do.
Sean Howell, co-founder of the social media app Hornet and activist, points out that after India and China, the third largest population in the world would be LGBT people or as he puts it Homoslavia.
Recognising same-sex marriage puts Nepal in a sweet spot with the Homoslavians he tells the conference

SH1:  Many tourism boards or ministers of tourism that want to promote LGBT tourism would love to have recognized marriages and they just don't. And they won't any time soon. So you have an advantage now? You should use it.

Sunil Babu Pant, long time activist, founder of Nepal’s first LGBT support group Blue Diamond Society and organiser of the Rainbow conference plants to do just that. He quips that now Indian same-sex couples don’t have to go far to have a big fat gay Indian wedding. They can just walk across the border.

SBP1: a lot of Indians should come and register their marriage in Nepal. They could just walk in

The Rainbow Tourism conference had booths that offered to organise customised honeymoon packages for same sex couples and trekking companies that promised to be LGBTI friendly.
There’s a brand new gay-owned tour company called Queermandu, the only one of its kind in Nepal. Co-founder Prajeet Budhatoki says while Queermandu isn’t just FOR queer people only, its there because he learned while trekking how good it was to meet other gay trekkers.

PB1:it was great to share an experience that we have and connect with the same. Like we are same. So it will. It feels so safe and secure with them rather than going out with other people

So while everyone wants to show off the culture of Nepal, QueerMandu want to do it from a queer angle. Like Kathmandu from Queer Eye which says one of its founders Aayyam Poudel gives travellers a slice of Kathmandu history other tours won’t

AP1: So, like, just taking them to the temples where they are like, uh uh, uh, homosexual and transgender and other kind of sexual images, wooden carving, stone carving or polygamy, uh, from feminist and queer perspective.

Wooden carvings of lesbian sex tucked away over a temple door for instance. A sense of sexual fluidity thats far more diverse than the LGBTI boxes we are used to. You have tours like a shopping spree called Devil Wears Chappals and Homo Momo where you learn to make Nepal’s famous steamed dumplings but in rainbow colours.
While rights, marriage, non discrimination, safety tolerance are all hugely important travel must also be fun. Queer Mandu’s t-shirts dont come in Medium and XL but in Twink and Bear sizes.
American born Joey Foster-Ellis is on the board of Queer Mandu and its digital architect. He says they are still trying to figure how gay to go.

JFE1:  It's about mixing with the local cultural heritage, with our queer cultural heritage from abroad. And how do we understand this new voice that we're trying to create here?

At the end of the conference Sunil Babu Pant read out a declaration

SBP2: So we, the participants of the first Rainbow International Tourism Conference in Nepal, hereby declare our unwavering commitment to promoting diversity and inclusivity within the tourism industry.

But it wasn’t the end of rainbow pride in Kathmandu. Next day was the Mr Gay Nepal contest.
There might not be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But there is the promise of pink dollars.

This is Sandip Roy in Kolkata for KALW.