Gay people worldwide are being urged to go to Britain, in an attempt to cash in on “the pink pound” of tourism.

The national tourist agency VisitBritain is urging gay people, “Isn’t it time you came out … to Britain.”

Reuters’ report that Gay tourism is now worth up to three billion pounds a year to the economy with London positioned to rival New York, Sydney and Amsterdam as a hot spot for gay visitors.

The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) has recorded a 100 percent rise over the last year in companies offering specialist holidays to Britain.

IGLTA spokesman, Stephen Coote, told Reuters: “Gay people have more disposable income to spend on entertainment and travel. They take two to three holidays a year. It makes sense to focus on them.”

The tourist office for England, Scotland and Wales, suggests that EuroPride and a host of other festivals and events country-wide make 2006 the must-visit year.

On EuroPride Day, Saturday July 1, visitors to the capital will be able to see the EuroPride Parade make its way through some of the world’s most iconic streets, along Oxford Street, Regent Street, Whitehall past the Houses of Parliament, with festivities continuing in Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and throughout Soho.

London is home to the largest gay and lesbian population in Europe, with Soho seen as the symbolic heart with a large selection of bars, clubs, shops and restaurants. On July 30, Soho London is one of the city’s biggest free street parties, featuring leading lesbian and gay DJs, outdoor dining, market stalls and a parade winding it’s way through Soho’s vibrant streets.

Also in London, The London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival takes place from March 29 through April 12, the largest festival of its kind in Europe featuring around 120 film premieres as well as short films, master classes and interviews.

Just an hour south of London by train, Brighton is the perfect escape for those seeking fresh sea air combined with a lively gay and lesbian scene. Known as “London-by-the-sea”, Brighton offers a popular beach, pier and seafront, along with great culture, shopping and nightlife. Visitors to Brighton between July 29 and August 6 will be able to experience one of the biggest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender festivals in the country, attracting more than 120,000 people; Brighton Pride’s Summer Festival and Parade features two all-day street parties, a Carnival Parade and event party in Preston Park on August 5.

With non-stop flights from the US, Manchester is one of England’s most popular gay and lesbian cities with the gay village focusing on Canal Street where there is plenty of opportunity to ‘bar-hop’. Manchester Pride takes place August 18 – 28 with a film festival, community events, entertainment, and a ‘Big Weekend’ celebration including the parade. Manchester also boasts one of the world’s biggest gay and lesbian arts festivals: queerupnorth takes place from May 5 through 28 and is described as a three-week celebration of everything queer, including theater, comedy, music, dance, film and exhibitions from around the world. The festival culminates in a ‘Night of Light’ featuring music, costumes, lantern procession, candlelit flotilla on the canal and fireworks.

For those in search of hot Scots, visit Glasgow in Scotland around June 24 to experience Pride Scotia, Scotland’s leading LGBT event. The day will include a pride parade and festival as well as an array of after-event parties in the city. Or visit later in the year for Glasgay!, one of the world’s leading festivals showcasing top acts and new artists, taking place from October 16 through November 12. Glasgay! features comedy, music, film, theater, visual and performance art and club nights at venues across the city.

In the capital of Wales, Cardiff-Wales Mardis Gras takes place on September 6 featuring live music on a main stage, exhibitions, films and dance and cabaret tents. Venues across the city feature special events and after-event parties.