American Airlines and GayCities have named their top pick for the world's best gay city of 2011, and surprisingly, it's in the Middle East. Sorry, San Francisco, but Tel Aviv is number one for gay tourists. The Israeli city got 43 percent of votes, crushing the competition. Second place New York City got a mere 14 percent of votes. The remaining contenders were Toronto (7 percent), Sao Paulo (6 percent), Madrid (5 percent), London (4 percent), New Orleans (4 percent), and Mexico City (4 percent).
So what made Tel Avivi the landslide winner? The city actively works to attract gay tourists, and according to the Huffington Post, Tel Aviv earmarks about one third of its international marketing budget toward gay tourists. "We've long recognized the economic potential of the gay community. The gay tourist is a quality tourist, who spends money and sets trends ... There's also no doubt that a tourist who's had a positive experience here is of PR value. If he leaves satisfied, he becomes an Israeli ambassador of good will," says Tourism Ministry official Pini Shani.
Other tourist-friendly forces are at work in the city, with many travel websites devoted to promoting gay-friendly travel experiences in Tel Aviv. Plus, there's the yearly Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade and surrounding Gay Pride Week, numerous gay bars and nightclub, and even gay beaches.
Can't make it all the way to Tel Aviv? A number of U.S. cities won top spots in other categories, including Best Nightlife City and Best Dressed City (New York), Best Pride City (San Francisco), Best Settle Down City (Seattle), and Best Up and Coming City (Buffalo).
Are you planning a trip to any of these cities or any pride festivals this week? Tell us your plans in our comments! And remember, please keep your comments respectful.