Gay Commitment Ceremonies: A New Market for Hotels
By Jeff Guaracino Vice President, Communications, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp | October 28, 2008
Gay and lesbian couples are getting hitched. It doesn't matter if local laws provide legal protections or not, gay men and lesbian women are celebrating their relationships with their families, friends and co-workers. Even gay celebrities are doing it from Rosie O'Donnell to Sir Elton John. Sometimes these ceremonies are called same-sex weddings, a commitment ceremony or as they call it in Great Britain, a pink wedding.
Within the United States, laws vary state by state. The Washington Post reported last month that more than 8,000 same sex couples have registered for licenses in Vermont; 10,000 couples have married in Massachusetts; and another 1,500 in Connecticut. New Jersey is the latest state to offer same-sex recognition within the state for couples. It is too early to determine how many New Jersey couples are planning their ceremonies now.
In some countries, such as in Canada and Spain, same-sex couples have equal protection under the law as their opposite-sex counterparts. The grassroots organization Canadians for Equal Marriage reports that more than 12,000 licenses have been issued across Canada since the Ontario Court of Appeal first allowed equal marriage in June, 2003.
What is a civil union anyway? In addition to the public celebration of a couple's relationship and commitment, civil unions or marriage provide same-sex couples similar or equal rights granted to married couples, including the rights of hospital visitation, the ability to collect survivor benefits, and eligibility for tax deductions. Businesses, public and private employers, organizations and institutions are usually required to treat civil union couples in the same manner as married persons are treated. Gay couples are not recognized by the United States government, therefore, are excluded from more than 1,000 laws that apply to heterosexual married couples. While some religious organizations do recognize gay marriages and gay clergy, others do not.
With legal recognition and a growing public acceptance of same-sex unions around the world, a new business opportunity for hotels to host formal celebrations and to create honeymoon packages has been created. In fact, gay tourism is a growing industry representing more than $50 billion spent annually in the United States. Considering that is estimated that there are around 15 million adult people who identify as GLBT in the United States, that is an incredible per trip spend.
According to Tom Roth, founder of Community Marketing Inc. in San Francisco, a well-respected gay travel research firm, gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies have the potential to be a huge boom for the travel industry representing as much as a one billion dollar market in the United States alone. Roth estimates that of 15 million adult GLBT people in the United States about 10 million people are in a committed relationship. His data assumes that a conservative 1.5 million people would travel for a commitment ceremony.