best gay travel destination
Kissing in the crowd of the Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. Photo by Dan Keinan
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Israel's LGBT community has a reason to be proud: It has officially been proclaimed the best gay travel destination of 2011.

In a worldwide survey by GayCities.com and American Airlines, 43 percent of the respondents voted for the White City, followed by New York with 14 percent, Toronto with 7 percent, Sao Paulo with 6 percent, Madrid and London with 5 percent each and New Orleans and Mexico City with 4 percent each.

Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai said the victory strengthened the city's reputation as one that "respects all people and allows everyone to live according to his/her own principles. Ours is a city in which everyone can be proud of who they are."

In a statement, Huldai said the municipality's Gay Center has received around NIS 500,000 annually since 2008, while Gay Pride Week and various nonprofit associations also get city funding.

The survey's results have been published on the competition's website, gaycities.com. Online visitors were asked to vote for their favorite gay destination. The site did not say how many votes were cast.

Best City was just one category in the competition. New York won for Best Night Life, San Francisco took Best Pride, Paris won for Best Food and Seattle got Best Settle Down City. Buffalo, New York, meanwhile, held more than its own and was declared Best Up and Coming City.

Tel Aviv has long been known as a gay-friendly place, but it has increased its profile around the world with activities including the Tel Aviv Gay Vibe campaign, organized with the municipality's tourism authorities.

About 5,000 gay tourists visited Tel Aviv in June for the annual Gay Pride Parade - 25 percent more than in 2010. "This year, we estimate that this number will double," city council member Yaniv Waizman said in the statement.

Things have been looking up for Tel Aviv's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community since its darkest hour, in August 2009. On a Saturday evening that month, a gunman killed a counselor and a teenage girl at the Bar Noar gay center near Rothschild Boulevard.

The killer has not yet been found.