La Isla del Encanto, or Puerto Rico as most of us know it, is going through a crippling financial crisis thanks to a $70 billion debt. The solution? Some are banking on gay tourism. Yup.
Lee Hall, who got engaged to his boyfriend on the island, says, “Everyone here, that I’ve experienced, is very gay friendly, gay accepting.” Unlike other islands in the Caribbean that traditionally follow the conservative rulings of the British, Puerto Rico abides by the same gay laws in the U.S. This means that being gay won’t land you a life sentence like it does in Barbados or in a mental asylum like in Dominica — a huge advantage for any openly gay people who want to travel to the Caribbean.
Cecilia de la Luz, a gay activist, has been fighting for gay rights for more than 40 years, and advocates for gay rights on the island because it will improve the quality of life for everyone, not just gay people.
“There’s a connection between more rights for gay people in Puerto Rico and have more impact in regards to gay tourism on the island and that will have a domino effect in regards to improve the economy,” she says.
To no one’s surprise, 90 percent of the tourism on the island comes from the U.S. and of that percentage, gay honeymooners spend a lot more money than their straight counterparts. Ingrid Rivera, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company says that the island is a great wedding destination. Because of this, the government is pushing U.S. airlines to have more direct flights to the island and even has commercials geared towards the gay community. Although there are no hard numbers in terms of how much gay tourism can generate for the island, Rivera estimates it at 350 to 500 million.
Tropical island gay weddings and debt reduction? Boom. It’s a #winwin.
Listen to more details about gay tourism in Puerto Rico from NPR’s Latino USA here.