In 2005, members from the Spain’s People’s Party led 100,000 protesters in a march against legalizing gay marriage. In 2015, regional President Cristina Cifuentes flew the rainbow flag, symbolizing support for gay people, from institutional buildings. I see an encouraging trend here. Is it all meant lovingly, or does money play a role (too)?
The rise of LGBT Spain
In 2006 PlanetOut named Spain its “Destination of the Year” for gay and lesbian travelers at the international gay and Lesbian Travel Association convention. One of the reasons was the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2005. It established Spain’s credentials as a holiday destination where people can feel relaxed about their sexuality, sometimes in a way they can’t back home.
This in turn led to an increased interest in events like Madrid Pride, growing in numbers to 2 million visitors to become Europe’s biggest gay pride, generating € 120 million for the local economy in just 5 days. It has also become the largest periodic event in Spain and was awarded the title “Best Gay Event in the World” by LOGO/MTV.
The website Madrid Orgullo claims that Madrid is the LGTB capital of Spain, has a population of 500,000 gays in all the region, with around 600 companies aiming almost exclusively at the LGBT, and the city offering 350 leisure, cultural and sportive events every year. The region of Madrid is visited annually by 3 million LGTB guests.
Event organizers in Barcelona chose to create a different festival 8 years ago : Circuit. After some hiccups and growing pains, the number of visitors for this 2-week event grew to 71,000 in 2015, generating an estimated €150 million for the local economy. In this period, Barcelona is plastered in posters featuring male models advertising parties aimed at gay visitors and stores carry signs with special offers, from sun-beds to free gym passes as the city is taken over by non-stop clubbing and pool parties. After eight years, the festival is expanding to Ibiza and the Canaries in 2016, catering to increasing demand for gay (and to a lesser extent lesbian) events.
And the winner is…
By late 2015 media reported that Spain was “winning the battle for gay tourists”. According to a report by LGBT Capital, , an investment firm based in the British Virgin Islands that focuses on gay-themed assets, gay and lesbian visitors contribute about USD 6.8 billion to the Spanish economy, edging out France as Europe’s top destination (USD 6.6 billion) and surpassing the UK (USD 4.8 billion). The U.S. is the global leader with USD 21.5 billion of revenue.
An important qualification was added: gay people spend about 30% more on average than mainstream tourists in Spain, according to government estimates, boosting an economy where tourism accounts for 12% of jobs.
It’s a win-win.