By Daniel Hunter

A new report shows that gay Europeans spend up to €50 billion ($65 billion or £41 billion) each year on tourism, according to the Gay European Tourism Association (GETA).

GETA’s report, Gay Tourism Matters, estimates for the first time the number of people who live open gay lifestyles in western, central and eastern Europe at nearly 26 million, or 2.6% of the total population. This figure ranges from 5% in Western European countries down to just 0.25% in Turkey and the former Soviet states in Eastern Europe.

Drawing on existing research into the tourism spending of gay people from outside Europe, including the USA, Canada, Brazil, Japan and Australia, the report estimates that there is an additional market of €86 billion ($112 billion or £70 billion), much of which is spent in Europe. Community Marketing, the San Francisco based market research agency, reported in its 2011-2012 Annual Gay and Lesbian Tourism Report that London and Paris are the third and fourth favourite destinations for gay Americans, after New York and San Francisco.

Although 'out' gay people only represent 2.6% of the European population, the €50 billion spend represents 8% of the €632 billion that the European Union estimates is spent on tourism in Europe each year.

“Gay people are a great market for the tourism industry” said Carlos Kytka, Executive Director of GETA. “Because we tend not to have children we have more disposable income and free time. We have a higher propensity to travel, particularly in quieter periods outside school holidays.”

Many destinations and hotels are actively promoting themselves to the gay market. European cities including London, Berlin, Stockholm and Cannes already market themselves as gay destinations understanding the value of gay spending power.

Christina Guggenberger of the Stockholm Visitors Board says that “Stockholm clearly understands the importance of targeting the gay market. Diversity, openness and respect are core values for any welcoming destination. Stockholm profits from being a popular destination for the LGBT travelers and it also supports our position as a world class destination.”

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