Last year, agents selling Hawaii were all about the multigenerational client. This year, it's all about the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) market in the Aloha State, specifically gay clients looking to tie the knot.
This was supposed to be the year of the first-time visitor to Hawaii. Although there could be some overlap between first-timers and gay clients getting married, we expect the gay client to be the trendiest consumer heading to Hawaii in 2014.
And that trend officially kicked off on December 2 when six couples at a Waikiki resort tied the knot, exchanging vows side-by-side with one another in front of a few hundred guests shortly after midnight, while even more couples watched and waited their turn.
Across town, an openly gay Unitarian minister wed his partner of 15 years in a ceremony attended by clergy who pushed for the new law, plus Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who called the special legislative session that led to the law, according to the Associated Press (AP).
"It's fabulous for Hawaii's tourism because they're losing out to places like New York right now," says Zachary Moses of HE Travel in Key West, Florida. "This will bring the marriages back to Hawaii. Oahu is great for gay boys and the lesbians spend more time on Maui."
According to the AP, an estimate from a University of Hawaii researcher says a law to allow same-sex marriage in Hawaii is expected to boost tourism there by $217 million over the next three years.
The study's author has said Hawaii would benefit from pent-up demand for gay weddings, with couples spending $166 million over those three years on ceremonies and honeymoons, according to the AP report.
"It is proven that LGBT consumers choose to spend their disposable income at destinations, where they are/feel accepted, recognized and respected," Carlos Melia of First in Service Travel, an agency based in New York, told Travel Agent. "Hawaii has given a clear and loud, 'Aloha,' to the community celebrating diversity and equal rights. I mean, Hawaii had everything you would wish for to celebrate an ideal wedding, and now they have taken the step forward to make it official."
Hawaii’s marriage laws allow couples to register for a license and be married the same day, a process conducive for tourists only in the state a short time. According to the AP, couples can sign up for a license online then be verified by any license agent throughout the state. Agents have set up shop throughout the islands, from resorts on Maui and the Big Island to places on Kauai.
The state Senate passed a bill on November 12 legalizing gay marriage. It allows thousands of gay couples living in Hawaii and even more tourists to marry in the state.
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