Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

The city of Durban, mainly known for its traditional and conservative culture, is pulling out all stops to get a slice of the lucrative local and international gay and lesbian tourist market in its effort to increase tourist numbers to more than five million a year.

Research by specialist consulting firm Out Now in 2016 revealed the global LGBT travel market is worth more than $211bn in consumer spending a year. The study found that by 2030 there will be 180-million LGBT travelers worldwide.

This LGBT sector is regarded as one of the fastest growing tourism sectors. 

eThekwini municipality has enlisted the assistance of the local gay and lesbian community and organisations to encourage their international counterparts to consider coming to the city for their holidays. The city is also trying roll out red carpets and increasing LGBT-friendly attractions.

The city has instructed its tourism utility, Durban Tourism, to work with local, national and international LGBT communities to “lure them to come to Durban for holidays”.

Last month, Durban hosted its ninth Durban Gay Pride march that attracted thousands of marchers, exhibitors and spectators from around the country, many of which are members of the LGBT community.

Jason Fiddler, a gay activist and chair of the KwaZulu-Natal Gay & Lesbian Tourism Association, has been involved in the tourism sector for more than 22 years. He said the organisation has heeded a call by both the eThekwini municipality and the KwaZulu-Natal government authorities to help market KwaZulu-Natal and Durban as tourist destinations among the LGBT  community locally and internationally.

“[The authorities] have told us that they want to reach the magical number of 5-million tourists annually and they believe that the LGBT community is very important.

“[The LGBT community] wants all the things that other tourists want; things like exciting bush and game reserve experience, good places for wining and dining, and generally places to relax and wind down,” he said.

“We have noticed that establishments around Durban and other areas have been very accommodating in recent years. This is very important because I believe that Durban has so much to offer. We have some of the best tourism attractions in the world, but we also have our own problems. I travel a lot and I know that every other top tourist attraction in the world has their own challenges.” 

Fiddler said many gay and lesbian travelers are familiar with Cape Town due to its marketing efforts, but now people from the international LGBT community are asking about, and even coming to, attractions in Durban and KwaZulu-Natal.

He urged other tourist establishments in the province to reach out to the LGBT community.

The Federated Hospitality Association of SA (Fedhasa) says it has urged its members to start looking at the needs of the LGBT community.

Charles Preece, spokesperson for Fedhasa on the East Coast, said: “We in the hospitality industry ought to help and support initiatives that will increase tourists. At the end of the day everyone will benefit.” 

Durban-based tour operator Nosipho Mathebula said she has also noticed a growing number of same-sex couples booking her tours.