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Spain Embraces Rainbow Tourism

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It’s no surprise that Spain is a popular LGBT destination – after all, it was the third country in the EU to legalise same-sex marriages, ten years ago, and its islands are known the world over for a welcome attitude. In fact, with tourism accounting for about 12% of jobs in Spain and figures showing that gay and lesbian visitors spend on average 30% more than heterosexual tourists, Spain actively welcomes the pink pound – and it doesn’t do it by halves.

Case in point: Madrid hosts a two week long Gay Pride celebration at the start of summer, at the end of June to the beginning of July, including the largest Gay Pride parade in Europe. And just as those who joined the celebrations for that are getting over their hangovers, at the beginning of August there is another two weeks of partying, with the massive Circuit Festival in Barcelona. It is the second biggest gay festival in Europe, and the city is taken over by rainbow flags, posters featuring hunks flashing their six packs, and adverts for world pool parties. Local businesses make sure to get involved, with offers on taxis to ferry the revellers from party to party, and hotels across the city make sure that visitors know that same sex couples are welcome.

“The atmosphere at the festival was brilliant.” said one 25 year old British attendee. “There were parties every night, and events like speed dating and yoga during the day. It was my first time visiting but I had such  great time that it is already on my calendar for next year!”

The festival has been running for eight years, and after expanding to party hot spot Ibiza this year, it will further expand to the Canaries next year. With full access tickets going for 360 euros (160 pounds sterling), and 71,000 visitors expected each year, it’s easy to see how the economy can benefit from ticket price alone.

In terms of figures, the Pride parade and events around it bring in about 120 million euros (87.5 million pounds sterling) for the economy, and the Circuit Festival gathers about 150 million euros (109 million pounds sterling). In addition to this, after having such a good welcome in Spain’s capital and second city it is expected that many LGBT visitors will choose to explore the country’s many other sights in further holiday breaks. In total, the pink pound contributes $6.8 billion to Spain’s economy a year – (6.1 billion euros or 4.5 billion pounds sterling) putting it in the top spot for LGBT spending in Europe, just ahead of France.

“This is a high-income travel market that is not tied down by school holidays and is generally more adventurous,” said Carlos Kytka, executive director at the Gay European Tourism Association. “It’s easy to fill up hotels in Barcelona in summer, what makes us different is that we travel all year round and spend the money, and that keeps the cash flow going.”

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