Thailand's ladyboys conquer the sky

For several decades, Thailand has been one of the world's major areas of sexual tourism. This dubious glory of the country owes much to the movement of transvestites and transsexuals. Yet, outside the realm of sex-service representatives, "the third gender," even in uber liberal in terms of sexual morality Thai society, was not in demand. Aviators decided to change this unfair situation. Airline P. C. Air has decided to employ transsexuals on aircraft as flight attendants.

Among the 30 people hired by Thai carrier to start work on March 1 as flight attendants, three were representatives of the "third gender." Among them is the winner of a beauty contest among the transsexuals Miss Tiffany 2007 Tanyarat Dzhirapatpakon.

According to the airline representative, professional training for transgender will be held along with 17 other girls. The only difference will be that their uniforms instead of "male" or "female" will indicate the "third gender".

President of the innovative Airlines Peter Chan is convinced that his compatriots who decided to change their gender are quite capable of working not only in the field of intimate entertainment.

"I think these people can make a career in various fields of activity, not only in show business. Many of them are dreaming of working as flight attendants. I just helped them to implement their dreams," he said in an interview with news agency AFP. "Our society is changing, evolving. So far, my company is a pioneer in engaging transsexuals in the work, but I am sure that our example will soon be followed by many other organizations".

The representatives of transgender community consider the innovation of P. C. Air a breakthrough. Tanyarat Dzhirapatpakon was pleasantly surprised when she was invited to work as a flight attendant. "At first I thought that they would take our resumes but will not hire us, as it has often happened in other places," commented the 23-year-old winner of the prestigious beauty contest among transsexuals.

Experts of the tourist market in Thailand, however, believe that top managers of P. C. Air were guided not only by the desire to equalize the representatives of the "third gender" in the rights with adherents of traditional gender roles. Much more important for the new airline is an advertising effect of this change.

Economic considerations have likely also played their role in the unusual for Thai society initiative. Worldwide revenue of travel agencies specializing in organizing recreation of the members of the LGBT community reaches one hundred billion dollars. Gay tourism is becoming one of the major trends of recreation and entertainment on a global scale. This is the idea the Secretary General of World Tourism Organization UN Taleb Rifai strongly believes in.

"In recent times we have heard statements from a number of countries that were hardly likely to speak that frankly before and who now claim that they support and encourage gay tourism. So, in my opinion, this trend will retain its translational perspective in its development, because it is directly linked to other global trends and moves in the same direction with them," he said in an interview with France Press.

The European representative of the International Lesbian and Gay Tourist Association (IGLTA) Clark Massad agrees with him.

"Today we are observing how the tourist industry turns its face to it, as it now understands the new, rapidly growing market, which should be quickly taken advantage of," he commented on the trends of global tourism market for a French news agency. "A few years ago we were talking about niche market, but now there is no doubt that we face an independent segment."

The principle "sex sells" has long become one of the cornerstones of marketing technologies. And, despite years of efforts by the Thai government to change the deep-seated image of the country as an oasis of sexual permissiveness, this stereotype has firmly taken root in the minds of western tourists. Since a considerable part of them are representatives of the LGBT community, the presence of an airline close to this particular community in spirit clearly enhances Thailand's chances in the market of the world of gay tourism. The president of P. C. Air Peter Chan clearly has his finger on the pulse of the new trends.

Sergei Podosenov

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov