A report out today shows that gay Europeans spend up to €50 billion ($65 billion or £41 billion) each year on tourism. The study comes as the Gay European Tourism Association (GETA) launches Gay Welcome, its new website to help people find gay and gay-friendly hotels, events and destinations throughout Europe.

GETA’s report, Gay Tourism Matters, estimates for the first time the number of people who live open gay lifestyles in western, central and eastern Europe at nearly 26 million, or 2.6% of the total population. This figure ranges from 5% in Western European countries down to just 0.25% in Turkey and the former Soviet states in Eastern Europe.

Drawing on existing research into the tourism spending of gay people from outside Europe, including the USA, Canada, Brazil, Japan and Australia, the report estimates that there is an additional market of €86 billion ($112 billion or £70 billion), much of which is spent in Europe. Community Marketing, the San Francisco based market research agency, reported in its 2011-2012 Annual Gay and Lesbian Tourism Report that London and Paris are the third and fourth favourite destinations for gay Americans, after New York and San Francisco.

Gay Tourism Matters

Although ‘out’ gay people only represent 2.6% of the European population, the €50 billion spend represents 8% of the €632 billion that the European Union estimates is spent on tourism in Europe each year.

“Gay people are a great market for the tourism industry” said Carlos Kytka, Executive Director of GETA. “Because we tend not to have children we have more disposable income and free time. We have a higher propensity to travel, particularly in quieter periods outside school holidays.”

Many destinations and hotels are actively promoting themselves to the gay market. European cities including London, Berlin, Stockholm and Cannes already market themselves as gay destinations understanding the value of gay spending power.

Christina Guggenberger of the Stockholm Visitors Board says that “Stockholm clearly understands the importance of targeting the gay market. Diversity, openness and respect are core values for any welcoming destination. Stockholm profits from being a popular destination for the LGBT travelers and it also supports our position as a world class destination.”

Increasing numbers of hotels are appealing to gay tourists. GETA’s GayWelcome.com website lists over 3,500 hotels and guesthouses throughout Europe that welcome gay guests. Travellers can rate their experience and recommend local attractions. The site also provides guides to gay destinations and major event listings throughout Europe.

“You don’t have to paint your hotel pink to appeal to gay guests” said Carlos Kytka. “You just need to make us feel welcome. Gay people who are questioned about sharing a double bed or excluded from honeymoon and valentine offers are not going to come back.”

GETA is rolling out programmes to help its members understand how to welcome and promote themselves to gay guests. “As societies become more open to gay men and women, businesses cannot afford to ignore this important market segment” said Kytka. “We want to improve the travel experience in Europe for gay people and help gay-friendly companies to prosper and grow.”

The Gay Tourism Matters is available for free on www.geta-europe.org.

Adam is a gay travel blogger and writes the popular blog, Travels of Adam, in addition to being the editor and publisher of My Gay Travel Guide. He likes beaches, sleeping in unmade beds, reading newspapers and city trips. His work has been published in Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, the DETAILS network and numerous travel websites. Follow him on Google+ and Pinterest for more travel inspiration.

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