Same-Sex Marriages Are Booming in Hawaii

In Hawaii, 12 percent of all out-of-state marriage licenses went to same-sex couples in the first seven months of the state's Marriage Equality Act.

Travel Agent recently spoke to several notable Hawaii tour operators who felt that Hawaii’s same-sex marriage market was not doing as well as some predicted it would since Hawaii’s Marriage Equality Act went into effect on December 2, 2013.

But after reviewing some detailed statistics recently provided to us by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB), we can attest that same sex marriages in Hawaii are alive and well and are actually performing ahead of what most experts predicted in 2013.

The University of Hawaii published a report, also known as the LaCroix report, that attempted to ascertain the effect of same-sex marriage on visitor spending. It is important to note, however, that the LaCroix best-case scenario of $217 million in spending was not confined to same-sex marriage spending, but included spending for same-sex honeymoons. 

The spending for same-sex honeymoons in Hawaii was not linked to same-sex marriages in Hawaii and the honeymoon spending is therefore not a result of the legalization of same-sex marriages in Hawaii. In any event, there is no data source to calculate actual same-sex honeymoons to Hawaii.

According to the State Department of Health, since the effective date of Hawaii’s Marriage Equality Act went into effect December 2, 2013, 1,086 same-sex marriage licenses have been issued to out-of-state couples (one or both are non-residents), which accounted for 12 percent (1,086 out of 8,759) of all out-of-state marriage licenses.

According to the HVCB, in the best case scenario the LaCroix study projected 1,831 same sex marriages to visitors over the first three years of Hawaii’s law. After seven months, Hawaii has issued 1,086 marriage licenses to out-of-state same sex couples. Hawaii is on pace to meet or exceed the best case, three-year scenario set forth by the LaCroix study within the first year 12 months and certainly by the end of 2014 (13 months since the legalization), according to the HVCB.

According to the HVCB, it is also important to note that one of the LaCroix assumptions was that 13 states plus the District of Columbia would have legalized same-sex marriages. The report underestimated this number significantly as today there are 31 states plus the District of Columbia who have legalized same-sex marriages.

Using the LaCroix method for same-sex wedding spending (exclusive of same-sex honeymoons) the total direct visitor spending is calculated as the sum of spending by the couple ($9.8 million) plus the guests at the wedding ($28.7 million) equaling $38.5 million in total.

This total direct visitor spending ($38.5 million) is then multiplied by a multiplier of 1.94 to represent the total economic impact of the direct visitor spending as the dollars spent with wedding suppliers, hotels, etc. continue to trickle through the economy. This multiplier adds $74.6 million to the $38.5 million in direct spending to bring the total economic impact of same-sex weddings to $113.1 million. 

Assuming that the LaCroix spending assumptions are correct and the fact that Hawaii is on track to achieve the three-year 1,831 same-sex marriage projection in the first year after the legalization the state should also achieve the three-year spending projection in the first year.

NYC & Co. commissioned a comprehensive study of the impact of the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York after its first year. The study estimated that in the first year of marriage equality 12 percent of all marriage licenses issued by NYC went to same-sex couples (both resident and non-resident). In Hawaii, 14 percent of all marriage licenses went to same-sex couples (in the first seven months of the law). 

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