Industry Watch: Love Wins Tourism

Marriage equality is a big boost for travel

On the heels of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage, travel leaders around the nation are forecasting big implications for the meetings and tourism industries. The historic precedent, coupled with the summer travel period, has CVBs, airlines and hotels expecting a substantial economic boost for domestic and international travel. Reuters reported that in 2014, LGBT tourism topped $200 billion for the first time, and now, the total is expected to increase even more.

Convention & Visitors Bureaus

San Francisco Travel Association (SFTA) heralded the marriage ruling in reference to the city’s history as a champion of civil liberties and gay rights. “This decision is the culmination of a struggle that began in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2004, when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom began issuing same-sex marriage licenses at City Hall,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of SFTA. “My husband and I will be celebrating this weekend with thousands of people who will come to San Francisco to share in this historic moment.” Last year, San Francisco received more than 18 million visitors, with an economic impact of around $10 billion.

South Florida CVBs are tailoring their LGBT campaigns for a major economic impact. Bill Talbert, president and CEO of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, remarked that the ruling greatly bolsters its LGBT marketing efforts. Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau launched a #LoveIsLove campaign in February after marriage equality passed in Florida. A study from the Williams Institute of UCLA estimates that Florida could receive a tourism boost of $182 million, including $12 million in tax revenue over the next three years.

Hawaii also expects a big windfall in the wake of marriage equality. A study released by the University of Hawaii predicts an additional $217 million in tourism spending and $10 million in tax revenue to the state in the next three years. The majority of spending is expected to come from out-of-state tourism. If the new law had not passed, the study’s authors believe that Hawaii could have lost up to $200,000 per day due to LGBT couples traveling elsewhere to marry. According to a survey from public relations agency MWW, the American LGBT population has a spending power of more than $830 billion.


American and United airlines released statements soon after the Supreme Court extended full marriage rights to same-sex couples. The airlines backed the decision and reaffirmed their support of the LGBT community. Earlier this year, both airlines joined a coalition of 379 U.S. corporations that filed a brief to the Supreme Court supporting marriage equality. American Airlines also signed a public statement led by the Human Rights Campaign to prompt businesses to uphold diversity. “This is a historic moment for our country and for many of American’s employees,” said Doug Parker, CEO and chairman of American Airlines, in a statement. “Today’s decision reaffirms the commitment of companies like American that recognize equality is good for business and society as a whole.”
United Airlines issued its own statement in support of the ruling: “Today’s historic ruling is a long-awaited victory for all those who chose to take a stand for marriage equality, and we applaud the Supreme Court for affording same-sex couples the respect and dignity they deserve under the law. At United, we foster an inclusive culture where employees are accepted, valued and treated fairly, and we remain committed to proudly serving the diverse customers who fly with us.”


In recent months, several hotel brands have rallied their support for marriage equality and emphasized their stances on inclusivity. Marriott International was the official sponsor of Washington D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade this year. The Bethesda-based chain launched its #LoveTravels marketing campaign in 2014, which encourages same-sex couples and transgender individuals to share social media posts to the company’s website. Marriott was one of the first hotels to begin offering same-sex domestic partner benefits to its employees in 1999.

Hilton Worldwide co-hosted the Capital Pride Festival, and was a sponsor of New York City’s Gay Pride Parade and the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards. The brand recently hired award-winning author and LGBT expert Steven Petrow as an advisor on marketing and diversity initiatives. He will help spearhead the company’s LGBT-friendly “Stay Hilton. Go Out” campaign that launched in 2012. taps into the LGBT travel segment with travel packages to top gay destinations and LGBT travel newsletters.

Joining fellow hotels in support of same-sex marriage, Hard Rock Hotels reaffirmed its “love all-serve all” motto. Since 1971, the international hotel has ingrained corporate philanthropy into its business strategy with several humanitarian, environmental and entertainment industry-related causes. Hard Rock Hotel was one of many brands to celebrate the historic ruling with a corporate-sponsored float during Pride festivals held around the country this summer, including San Francisco (pictured).