Hawaii's Focus Turns to LGBT Market

Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach is one of many Oahu hotels regarded as being gay-friendly.

Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach is one of many Oahu hotels regarded as being gay-friendly.

The trend in Hawaii last year was all about agents selling it to the multigenerational client. This year, the focus appears to be on 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. 

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.

RELATED: Gay Wedding Floodgates Officially Open in Hawaii as Resorts Begin Hosting Same-Sex Weddings

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 and also Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who had signed the bill into law on November 13.

“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.”  Gay men show a preference for Oahu, he adds, while “lesbians spend more time on Maui.”

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 reportedly said Hawaii would benefit from pent-up demand for gay weddings, with couples spending $166 million over those three years on ceremonies and honeymoons.

RELATED: 2014 Travel Forecast for Hawaii

“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 has 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.