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Contemporary Overview of Gay Tourism and its Formidable Role in Regeneration

Contemporary Overview of Gay Tourism and its Formidable Role in Regeneration
Author: Seth Kirby
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In 2011, Tel Aviv (Israel) was named the best gay city travel destination in the world with 43% of the vote above the likes of New York (14%) and Toronto (7%), in surveys conducted by American Airlines and GayCities.com.

There is a belief that this percentage would not be expected especially from a Middle East state such as Israel. However what it does seem to show is the gay tourism industry and gay travel destinations are starting to become immensely popular on a global scale. There is a suggestion that gay tourism can offer an array of benefits to the regeneration and development of tourism destinations. A global contemporary overview of gay tourism will be presented. Themes such as the popularity and desirability of tourism destinations, and impacts associated with promoting destinations as "gay destinations" will be considered and analysed. Essentially arguments will be directed towards the concept of gay tourism and its positive contribution to the regeneration of regional infrastructure.

Recently there has been a proliferation in the interest of gay tourism, its market conditions and potential opportunities. A key theme which lies at the heart of this dynamism is commonly attributed to the development of national and international events such as Mardi Gras, Gay Pride events and the Gay Games. Gay tourism may be perceived as the dream market for tourism destinations, in addition to it being perceived as more desirable in the long term, and attractive in economic terms (Hughes, Monterrubio and Miller, 2010). Gay tourists as opposed to heterosexual tourists relish having access to elements of gay space. The gay tourism market as a whole searches for access to gay space; if this space is not available they may choose to travel to other destinations. Popular gay tourism destinations are usually known for having strong gay populations and extensive gay space. The decision making process seems to be far more complex for gay tourists travelling to tourism destinations. Destination choice plays a significant role in the decision making process for gay tourists.

The popularity and desirability of particular tourism destinations in relation to gay tourism activities appears regularly in the literature. Melbourne and Adelaide in Australia have made a conscious business decision to host Gay Pride events, in order to create an association with the gay tourism market (Markwell and Waitt, 2009). Likewise Gran Canaria has promoted their landscape to the expanding gay tourism market. This has resulted in Gran Canaria becoming one of Europe's leading destinations for this type of tourism (Melián-González, Moreno-Gil and Araña, 2011).

Regeneration and development is increasingly being implemented in order to develop financial and physical attributes such as city infrastructure. Gay tourism is considered to be a highly profitable form of tourism and can be viewed as a viable economical option, especially when coupled with culture, leisure and retail activities (Smith, 2004). Regeneration plans relating to gay tourism have featured to a greater extent in cities long term vision and ambition for transforming urban regions. The expansion of the gay tourism market in Melbourne and Adelaide has lead to a contemporary restructuring of urban space (Markwell and Waitt, 2009).

However there are challenges associated with promoting destinations as gay inclusive environments. This may result in destinations becoming undesirable for other types of tourists. Urban city environments may be interested in packaging particular destinations as gay destinations due to the supposed economic benefits that gay tourism brings, although it may result in many tourists feeling alienated (Casey, 2009; Hughes et al, 2010). Gay tourism development has not always been agreed on as the right direction to go for developing inter-city regions. Moreover gay tourism may be met with resistance and could well receive hostile responses from the host population.

Gay tourism crucially must be linked to long term regeneration and development strategies, in order to create vast benefits for the region. Gay tourism can act as a catalyst and explosive force for regeneration and development. Moreover gay tourism has the ability to reshape, transform and restore decaying urban and rural infrastructure. Gay leisure and tourism consumption can have a positive impact on local development in terms of stimulating and expanding urban renewal (Visser, 2003). For tourism destinations gay tourism may well offer substantial rewards in terms of rejuvenating the local and regional economy.

Key References

Hughes, H. L., Monterrubio, J. C., Miller, A., (2010). Gay tourists and host community attitudes. International Journal of Tourism Research. 12 (6), 774-786.

Markwell, K., Waitt, G., (2009). Festivals, Space and Sexuality: Gay Pride in Australia. Tourism Geographies: An International Journal of Tourism Space, Place and Environment. 11 (2), 143-168.

Melián-González, A., Moreno-Gil, S., Araña, J. E., (2011). Gay tourism in a sun and beach destination. Tourism Management. 32 (5), 1027-1037.