H. Mustafa Korkmaz
Istanbul Pride Travel
Tell us about your business?
We are a gay and lesbian owned, operated travel agency located in the heart of the historical part of Istanbul. Although majority of our clients are straight people we have been operating gay friendly tours in Istanbul since 2006.
What motivated you to start your business?
I am actually not the owner of the company. It is owned by a lesbian lady whose name is Derya. I am handling all websites, internet marketing, online sales and email communications. I initially started with publishing Istanbulgay.Com in 2002. It is a guide for LGBT tourists visiting Istanbul. This was a good chance for me to switch to travel business and that is how I met Derya who was already very experienced in travel business. She decided to open her own travel agency after we started working together in another travel agency in 2004. Since then we have been working together.
What have been your greatest successes?
I consider publishing a gay website, Istanbulgay.Com in 2002 in a less liberal country such as Turkey, as my greatest success. It is one of the oldest online gay guides in the world. It was before Facebook, YouTube and Twitter was launched that I had started making money from that and other Internet websites.
What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Although I was grown up in a relatively conservative and poor neighbourhood in Istanbul I came out as gay to my family and to my close friends in 1993. It will be another comparison but this was before Ellen Degeneres and long before many Hollywood stars dared to do so.
How did I overcome it? I did that after I gained my economic independence, first of all. Since then I chose to work in gay-friendly businesses. But first and foremost I never thought being gay was wrong myself. You reflect it to other people around you if you have self respect.
What advice would you give to other businesses in appealing to the LGBT+ community?
I do not know if everyone in gay business thinks the same, but my personal approach is not to regard them as bird in the hand just because they are gay and we offer a gay friendly service. We try to do your best to fulfil expectations of our clients regardless of their sexual orientation. Being gay, gay friendly company is just a minor detail in the business. If they are not happy it does not matter for them whether you are gay or not.