Why the Hottest Honeymoons This Year Are in Iceland
Gay and lesbian couples looking for a honeymoon or destination wedding spot have a slew of options these days—and the stakes are high when it comes to getting a share of the $140 billion global gay and lesbian tourism market.
American couples who want to leave their passports at home might choose Hawaii, one of the first states to legalize gay marriage. Others opt for a trek to Iceland, which has an admirably strong record on LGBT rights.
As one of the most beautiful islands in the world, Fiji has traditionally been popular with honeymooners and tourists for its surfing, eco-parks, rainforest hikes, and pristine sandy beaches—but whatever splendors Fiji, with its mud baths, volcanoes, and tropical wildlife, may offer, same-sex marriage is not legal there.
That’s how things are going to stay if Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has anything to say about it.
“There will be no same-sex marriage in Fiji,” he told the island nation’s Sun newspaper last week. “Fiji does not need that rubbish.”
What Fiji might need, however, is travel dollars.
“There are a lot of LGBT travelers who would hear those words and decide to take their trips and spend their money elsewhere,” says John Tanzella, president and CEO of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.
Those who are understandably reticent about making a trip somewhere a top official has called gay marriage “rubbish” might do well to take Bainimarama’s advice and “go and have it done in Iceland and stay and live there.”
Iceland, home of the Blue Lagoon hot spring, lava fields, and black sand beaches, is an “incredible destination,” says Tanzella. Fiji and Iceland are about as different as two places can be, and not just because one’s a tropical paradise and the other barely sees the sun during winter.
LGBT people in Iceland have things especially good. Same-sex activity has been legal since 1940, same-sex marriage was legalized in 2010, and gay people can adopt and get in vitro fertilization legally. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Iceland’s prime minister, is the first openly gay head of state.
Tourism is Fiji’s most profitable industry, earning more than $500 million last year. The majority of the more than 600,000 people who travel to Fiji each year live in countries—including Australia, New Zealand, and the United States—where gay marriage is legal, according to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics.
As recently as 2005, men were jailed and attacked for homosexuality, which was illegal until 2010. But by many accounts, life has improved for gay men and lesbians in recent years, and it’s now against the law to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Still, gay and lesbian relationships aren’t legally recognized, and this isn’t the first time Bainimarama has come out publicly against gay marriage.
Policies that are open to equal rights for LGBT people can be a sound economic strategy as well. According to recent studies, welcoming gay visitors and giving gay citizens rights is just good business. The Williams Institute at UCLA, which focuses on LGBT issues, found that in the three years after gay marriage was legalized in California, an estimated 50,000 gay weddings brought the state around $64 million. In Florida, the number is around $182 million.
Because money talks, Tanzella’s group does not condone boycotts. “We’re pro business, and we’d rather show the value of LGBT travelers to someone like [Bainimarama],” he says.
Bainimarama’s outsize antigay stance not only means Fiji could miss out on revenue from gay weddings—it could harm economic development overall.
“Economic development and rights for LGBT people go hand in hand,” says a 2014 Williams Institute report that studied 39 countries, 29 of which had developing economies. Less discrimination and more rights lead to higher job satisfaction, better health outcomes, and more access to resources and education.
At least as far as tourism is concerned, Iceland may already be feeling the love from gay and lesbian travelers this season: Officials there report tourism was up nearly 60 percent from 2014 to 2015.