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July 12, 2016 4:21 pm

Survey: LGBT Visitors to Israel Remain Longer, Spend More Money Than Other Tourists

avatar by Ruthie Blum

A gay pride parade in Tel Aviv. Photo: Wikipedia.

A gay pride parade in Tel Aviv. Photo: Wikipedia.

A new survey found that gay tourists to Israel remain longer and spend 40 percent more money than other tourists, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, the survey also revealed that tourists to the Jewish state from LGBT communities abroad tend to make contact and develop relationships with Israelis through social media and dating sites prior to their arrival.

The survey – the first of its kind — was conducted during Gay Pride Week, which kicked off on May 29, by the head of the Tel Aviv Municipality’s Ir Olam (World City) and Tourism task force, to examine the entertainment and consumer habits of gay visitors from abroad.

The questionnaire was created and analyzed by Israeli researchers Dr. Yael Ram and Dr. Amit Kama and Prof. Colin Michael Hall from New Zealand. It was given to 167 tourists at information centers, the Hilton Hotel beach and at an LGBT party held at the Charles Clore Park along the Tel Aviv Promenade during Gay Pride Week. Despite the survey’s limited scope, the municipality stressed that the answers revealed a number of interesting trends.

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For example, the data showed, most survey participants were returning visitors who had arrived especially for Gay Pride Week. The median age of the people polled was 39. The average stay was 6.5 nights – higher than the average annual stay for tourists, which, in 2014, was 5.4 nights.

Additional findings were that 53% of the tourists surveyed opted to stay in Airbnb apartments, while 25% stayed in hotels and 10.5% with friends. Those who went the hotel route were significantly older than those who stayed in holiday rentals or with friends.

The survey confirmed previous assumptions that gay tourism is good for the local economy. Participants said they spend an average of $274 per day in Israel, which is higher than the general average of $192. What also emerged was that gay tourism is not centered in Tel Aviv-Jaffa alone. More than 80% of survey participants said they took advantage of Gay Pride Week to tour Jerusalem, and another 9% visited Jordan or the Palestinian Authority.

When asked what they liked about Tel Aviv, most pointed to the atmosphere (i.e. activities, culture, food and architecture), the Mediterranean and a sense of personal security.

When asked what they didn’t like about the city, they mentioned the high cost of hotels, nightlife and alcohol. A significant number of participants said they felt cheated by local business owners, taking advantage of their being tourists. Some complained about poor public transportation.

Dr. Efrat Tolkowsky, a Tel Aviv city councilwoman who holds the LGBT portfolio, said, “There is no doubt that the data is flattering, particularly since this year was the turning point in gay tourism in general, and in lesbian tourism in particular. I am convinced that this tourism will increase in the coming years, with the understanding that the Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a place where women in the LGBT community are accepted.”

Yaniv Weizman, a Tel Aviv city councilman who holds the tourism portfolio, added, “The professional and hard work that we did in order to develop and stabilize gay tourism to Tel Aviv has paid off. The tourists vote with their feet and come year after year en masse.”

Ir Olam director general Eytan Schwartz said, “The survey proves that the Gay Pride Parade is not only a hasbara (Israeli public diplomacy) asset, but an economic one, as well.”

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