Gay businesses in Soho and Covent Garden are planning to launch a new association to promote the area internationally.

The Soho Pink Traders Association is the brainchild of Stuart Jordan, owner of the gay bar The Box, who has called in the help of marketing company Detonator which specialises in promoting gay businesses to help.

The association claims London's West End is fast overtaking Amsterdam and Barcelona as the most popular gay European capital and intend to promote the area as a top gay holiday destination.

The village atmosphere of Soho and Covent Garden, with its pavement cafes and reputation as an epicentre of high fashion, have all helped to attract the pink pound. But the move has already been criticised by traders' and residents' group The Soho Society.

'Gays want to be treated as normal, so why are they branching out on their own? said Emma Piette, a committee member of the society. But Mr Jordan disagrees. 'Gay people are not accepted, he said.

'We have had to go it alone for the past 25 years. At the end of the day we have to club together and promote our case together.

There are an estimated 50 gay businesses in the West End, including bars, cafes and restaurants, hairdressers, travel agents and hotels.

The SPTA, part of the national Gay Business Association, is inviting all gay London businesses to join it and is planning to hold an inaugural meeting in the next few weeks.