Asia’s Gay Travel Pioneers

LGBT (gay and lesbian) consumers are a powerful and desirable niche market for all kinds of commodities, one of the biggest of which is tourism. One tour operator in Bangkok, Purple Dragon Ltd., has been the gay market leader in Asia for seventeen years.

In 1997, Purple Dragon became Asia’s gay travel pioneers. The company was a innovator, not only for the niche market it targeted, but because they were a strictly-internet business long before selling online became widely accepted globally. All customer service was (and still is for the most part) handled swiftly and professionally by email. The company did not have a real office until their third year in business.

Purple Dragon is a one-stop source for private, all-inclusive tours in some of the Asian countries that LGBT travelers most want to visit. From the time they first launched they have been offering “modular” tours to major cities and beach resorts in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Later, they gradually added Myanmar (Burma), Laos, China (including Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an and Guilin), Singapore, practically everywhere in India and, most recently Bhutan. Purple Dragon is currently developing a range of packages in Sri Lanka. All of Purple Dragon’s destinations offer hotel options ranging from basic to five stars.

Most of Purple Dragon’s 100+ packages can be customized extensively to suit a guest’s individual interests. “They are not all temples and shopping,” said Purple Dragon’s CEO Douglas Thompson. “Every tour is different because every customer is different. We employ the best guides we can find and they are adept at modeling daily activities to meet each guest’s needs.” With very few exceptions the company does not use local contractors. Guides–who are themselves gay–work directly for Purple Dragon, and are familiar with the gay communities where they live and work, including nightlife and entertainment venues.

While Purple Dragon does not offer group tours of its own, it operates small group programs for other gay tour companies, for corporate clients who need creative expertise with MICE projects, and even groups of friends traveling together. They have even handled high school travel groups. “Our customers love what we do and recommend us to their families, professional colleagues and friends. You don’t have to be gay to enjoy our tours and the service we provide. Many people realize that they are getting something better from a gay tour company,” Thompson told me, adding that about one third of their customers have traveled with them three times or more, with the current record-holders being a San Francisco couple who have taken 22 Purple Dragon tours over the years. They also offer a private travel club for their customers called “Club Sanook.” Sanook is Thai for “fun.” (

Whether you are making your first trip to Bangkok, Phuket or Angkor Wat, or planning a bucket list trip that includes Asia’s hidden gems, Purple Dragon has provides top quality, personalized service with a fast turn-round. See what they offer on their extensive website:

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