Last month, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),—which denied federal benefits to legally-married, same-sex couples—and declared it unconstitutional. And with an uptick in wedding ceremonies expected in the 12 states where gay marriage is legally recognized, the hotel industry is likely to see a boost in business as couples book special packages and jet off for honeymoons.
John Tanzella, president and CEO of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), believes that the Supreme Court decision presents new chances for the travel and tourism industry to market to and attract LGBT couples. “The gay and lesbian community will be flooding the market with wedding receptions,” he says.
The economic impact of the gay wedding industry on travel and tourism is substantial. According to a survey conducted by NYC and Company, the official marketing, tourism, and partnership organization for the City of New York, same-sex marriage generated $259 million for the city in the first year gay marriage was legal in the state. The study also shows that more than 200,000 guests traveled from outside of the city to same-sex marriage events and more than 235,000 hotel room nights were booked at an average daily rate of $275.
Following the DOMA decision, hotels immediately began to announce package deals and special promotions to attract gay-wedding business to their properties. On the day of the ruling, the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco posted an announcement on its Facebook page encouraging same-sex couples to take advantage of engagement opportunities and wedding packages at the hotel. Marriott International showed its support of gay marriage by launching a Pinterest page highlighting associates celebrating same-sex ceremonies, and continued to tout its “Be You, With Us” campaign that encourages LGBT couples to book weddings and honeymoons with the brand.
The London Hotels, with U.S. locations in both New York and West Hollywood, Calif., quickly released a “One Love London” wedding package to encourage gay couples to exchange vows at its West Hollywood hotel. The package includes a customized wedding reception for up to 125 people and a five-night honeymoon at the brand’s Manhattan hotel. The package begins at $25,000.
“Immediately following the ruling on Prop 8 and DOMA, we have seen a dramatic increase in interest from same-sex couples looking to be married right away,” says Jennifer Rutkowski, vice president of sales and marketing for The London Hotels. “We understand the agonizing wait and anticipation same-sex couples have experienced, and we want to make the trip to the altar as quick, seamless, and as luxuriously glamorous as possible.”
It is still too early to tell just how much revenue will be generated from the gay-wedding industry, but with over 600,000 LGBT couples living together in the U.S., the potential benefit for businesses is huge.
“Hotels in today’s economy are looking for every opportunity to get heads in beds,” says Tanzilla. “Gay travelers have more of a propensity to travel than mainstream tourists. Now having weddings tied into that market presents a real opportunity.”