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Hawaii Tourism Association sees tourism potential

Hawaii tourism applauds approval of civil union bill

eTN Staff Writer  Jan 25, 2011

HONOLULU, HI (eTN) - When former Hawaii state Governor Linda Lingle vetoed the civil union bill, Hawaii's new Governor Neil Abercrombie promised to bring the bill back. Today, after a 3-hour hearing, the Judiciary & Labor Committee of Hawaii's Senate passed the civil union bill with a 3-2 vote.

Sens. Maile Shimaburko, Clayton Hee and Les Ihara, Jr., voted in favor of the measure while Sens. Mike Gabbard and Sam Slom opposed the bill.

SB232 is a bill that grants equal rights, benefits, and responsibilities to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The bill now goes to the full Senate for approval.

Should the civil union bill pass the full Senate, it is expected that Hawaii's tourism will be a huge beneficiary from the expected influx to the islands of visitors looking to be legally joined.

This argument for civil unions is that they will produce a boom for tourism, as same-sex couples fly to the islands to get hitched.

Hawaii Tourism Association (HiTA) president Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has been a supporter of a civil union legislation in Hawaii. HiTA is not affiliated with the State Marketing agency Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA): Steinmetz stated: "Besides giving a group of people equal civil rights, based on national population figures, the American gay and lesbian community represents a US$60 billion travel market, or about 10% of the US travel industry. But based on the results of our surveys, it represents an even larger percentage of the overall travel market in terms of actual gay and lesbian dollars invested in travel."

"The CVBs of Miami Beach, Key West, West Hollywood, and San Francisco are reaching out to the gay market for groups and conventions. Perhaps this could be expected, but so are Philadelphia; Washington, DC; and Minneapolis. Visit Britain and the Australia Tourism Commission have participated in the advertising efforts of gay tour operators.
“Visit Gay-Friendly Quebec" was a promotional campaign organized by Community Marketing Inc. for the destination in 1998 to increase gay and lesbian arrivals to the province. This comprehensive promotion also involved the sponsorship of Air Canada and VIA Rail, as well as the participation of the tourist offices of Montréal and Québec City.

"Why would all of these destinations encourage gay tourism? Because of the economically strong demographic profile of the gay community, but also because these governments want to encourage the rising popularity of their destinations among gay travelers, and recognize the potential of increasing the gay tourism market share through the implementation of effective promotional efforts. A recent focus group of leading travel agents serving the gay community agreed that the involvement of government tourism entities definitely helps support their sales efforts to reach the gay market and makes a difference when a client is considering destination options.

"I am optimistic Hawaii tourism will gain from establishing civil unions in our state. Gays prefer to travel to destinations they feel welcome. Gay and lesbian travelers would feel welcome again to visit Hawaii once we establish a civil union law in our state."

More numbers:
To put these celebrations in context, about 1 percent of all travel to Hawaii today is for the purpose of getting married – a small but significant part of the overall tourism market.

A UCLA study on civil unions in Hawaii concludes:

• From 589 to 1,285 same-sex couples would enter into civil unions in the first four years in which registration is available.

• Those unions will create spending of between US$4.2 million and US$30.8 million on celebrations by out-of-state visitors. If friends and family fly to the islands to join in the festivities, visitor spending over four years could reach between US$17.8 million and US$40.3 million, exclusive of gifts.

• Such spending will result in between 193 and 333 new jobs over four years.

• Over four years, spending on celebrations by same-sex couples might result in a boost in general excise taxes of up to US$1.6 million.

• Same-sex couples can already marry in 5 states and the District of Columbia, or enter similar relationships in other jurisdictions like Mexico or Buenos Aires. There may not be a flood of gay couples coming to Hawaii for formal celebrations, but the overall influx on tourism could be enormous.

Special thanks to Community Marketing Inc. for their support in providing information for this article.

Hawaii tourism applauds approval of civil union bill
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