Pink dollar 'could make Taranaki'
Taranaki is a hot spot of gay tourism waiting to happen, according to a couple about to tie the knot in the region.
Jef McGlashan, a former New Plymouth Boys' High School student, and his Australian partner, Wayne O'Connor, will be married in New Plymouth this weekend.
The pair have flown over from Sydney for their ceremony at Nice Hotel and say Taranaki is the place to stay if you're gay and in love.
Mr McGlashan, who grew up on a farm in Piopio said they had decided to have their wedding in New Zealand after the Marriage Amendment Bill was passed last year and the law change went through in August.
Members of his family live in Taranaki and the couple's Australian friends were more than happy to travel across the ditch to join the celebrations.
The pair are not alone in having a Tasman-hopping wedding. The owner of Nice Hotel, Terry Parkes, is a celebrant and said he had joined quite a few gay couples in wedded bliss since the law change.
Many of those couples were from Australia, and travelled to New Plymouth with their family and friends to tie the knot.
"I'm gay myself and I can tell you the pink dollar is a great dollar.
"A lot of gay couples have no kids but are quite creative and are therefore in high-paying jobs, and they want to spend their money" he said.
More than a third of same-sex couples married in New Zealand between August and December last year were Australians.
Of the 361 same-sex marriages, 97 couples were from Australia, with that number expected to increase during the summer wedding season.
New Zealand was the 13th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage and while Mr O'Connor said the couple's union would not be legally recognised in Australia when they returned home, he hoped it would be one day.
The couple said travel companies in Sydney were really beginning to push package deals to New Zealand for gay weddings.
Mr Parkes said Taranaki businesses could easily cash in on that rising trend.
"The pink dollar made San Francisco," he said.
Tourism New Zealand has previously estimated the gay tourism industry to be worth about $150 million to $160m a year.
Venture Taranaki is yet to do any hard research on the potential economic benefits of the pink dollar, but Mr Parkes encouraged them to investigate.
"At the moment it is very fortunate for us that gay marriage isn't legal in Australia. We need to take advantage of that," he said.
Stuart Trundle, chief executive of Venture Taranaki, said embracing this market would be another opportunity for Taranaki's visitor industry businesses to grow.
The Taranaki Arts Festival Trust was already trying to capture the growing gay tourism market.
Lisa McMullan, manager of marketing and communications, said Taft had been advertising Womad with New Zealand's premier gay magazine, Gay Express, for two years now.
"We actively market to that pink dollar. The pink dollar is out there and we are in the market of selling tickets to anyone who wants to experience Womad," she said.
Marriage by the numbers
Same-sex marriages in New Zealand from August 19, 2013, to December 19, 2013:
47 couples from Australia
4 couples from China
4 couples from Hong Kong
4 couples from the United Kingdom
50 couples from Australia
6 couples from China
4 couples from Thailand
Taranaki Daily News