SAME-SEX marriages are on the rise in New Zealand, but it’s not just locals tying the knot. Couples are coming from far and wide to walk down the aisle, boosting both tourism and the region’s hospitality industry.
In August 2013, New Zealand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific to legalize gay marriage, joining 12 others worldwide. Four years on, figures from Statistics New Zealand show an increase of 84 percent in same-sex marriages and civil unions.
To the delight of the travel sector, nearly half of these couples came from overseas. In 2016, a whopping 58 percent were residents of Australia where at present only commitment ceremonies are possible.
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Stanley Chan explained his decision to travel to Auckland to marry his partner: “I see New Zealand as a gay paradise, and on what I hope will be the happiest day of my life, I want to be able to go to a place where I can celebrate our love in the open.”
For a long time, New Zealand was known as one of the best places for a destination wedding. Today it has a strong reputation for inclusivity and a thriving LGBT wedding sector to boot. It includes many gay-friendly and gay-operated businesses spanning from venues and celebrants to planners and vendors.
It is also the first country in the region to host a Gay Wedding show. The event which took place in 2013 was backed by many for fostering equality in the wedding market and providing an experience that couples could enjoy with friends and family.
Impact of wedding tourism
The legalization of same-sex marriage has big implications for both travel and hospitality according to Reuters.
“We’re getting married at a different place in life,” said Charlie Rounds of the Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, quoted in article. As a result, not only do some couples have the resources to pay for a lavish wedding, but they can also afford to travel abroad to do it, if necessary.
While a marriage license costs up to AUD$240 (US$182) in New Zealand, soon-to-be-weds reportedly spend anywhere between AUD$7,000 (US$5,319) and AUD$30,000 (US$22,797) on their big day. Considering the number of same-sex couples coming from overseas to marry, this makes a sizeable contribution to the economy.
Wedding guests too are consumers and tourists. “They’re here to spend some money and have a bit of excitement usually,” said Tourism Minister Paula Bennett, in an article for Newshub NZ.
Beyond the day itself, some couples choose to stay on combining their nuptials and honeymoon in a single trip. New Zealand’s position as one of the top ten countries for LGBT travel perhaps makes this an even more appealing option.
However, while it is clear that tourism and hospitality are benefiting from the influx of travelers that marriage equality has brought, there are no solid figures on their impact as yet.
Although ANZ speculates that Australia could be losing out on more than AUD$500 million (US$380 million) in wedding-related revenues by not legalizing same-sex marriage, this could be New Zealand’s gain.