LOS ANGELES (AFP) — California's economy is poised for a multi-million-dollar windfall as same-sex marriages get underway here Monday, with the tourist sector eyeing a bonanza as gays and lesbians flock to the state to tie the knot.
Analysts say that a mini-industry will sprout up as California prepares to become the only US state that will allow gays and lesbians from outside the region to get hitched on its soil. Massachusetts, the only other US state to allow same-sex marriage, forbids non-residents from exchanging vows there.
That fact leaves California free to monopolize the same-sex wedding market.
According to a University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study published earlier this week, around 51,000 of the 102,000 same-sex couples living in California are expected to marry over the next three years.
A further 67,500 same-sex couples from other states that are likely to recognize their vows are expected to come to California during the same period to get married, the study found.
"Spending by resident same-sex couples on their weddings and by out-of-state couples ... will boost California's economy by over 683.6 million dollars in direct spending over the next three years," the UCLA study reported, adding that the new industry would create around 2,100 new jobs.
Jack Kyser, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, told AFP that same-sex marriages would lift the local tourist sector as fears of recession gripped the industry.
"There's going to be an economic impact, and this will be a welcome boost for the travel and tourism industry, which is a little bit concerned about the impact of the economy on traditional tourism," Kyser told AFP.
Kyser said the majority of gays also represented the most sought-after consumer demographic -- "DINKS" or "dual income no kids."
Even though some rural conservative areas of California "were not thrilled" by the same-sex marriage ruling, many districts such as Los Angeles and San Francisco are already marketing themselves as "gay-friendly" destinations.
"With all its sights and attractions -- and a heritage of tolerance -- gay-friendly Los Angeles will soon be the perfect gay and lesbian wedding destination," Los Angeles tourist office declared on its official website.
In West Hollywood, the gay hub of Los Angeles, businesses are preparing for the same-sex marriage windfall.
Zoe Caratas, Sales Director of the Ramada Plaza hotel in West Hollywood, told AFP that occupancy rates had soared since the California Supreme Court overturned the same-sex marriage ban on May 16.
"It has definitely increased the occupancy rate, especially for next week," Caratas said. "We are almost completely sold out on Tuesday (when marriage licenses will become available to couples), and the same goes for the remainder of the week. Normally, our occupancy is not as high during the week."
Caratas said the hotel was offering a special 599-dollar "Honeymoon Package" which includes two-nights accommodation, a complimentary bottle of champagne and free parking.
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