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Gay tourist hotels fear equality law

Printer-friendly version The Times
February 01, 2007

by Simon de Bruxelles
• They want right to refuse heterosexuals
• Rules change will hit the 'pink' market

Hoteliers chasing the pink tourist pound have joined criticism of a law outlawing discrimination against homosexuals.

The hotels, which cater for the thriving “exclusively gay” tourism market, say that they should be exempt from the Sexual Orientation Regulations as they will be forced to accept heterosexual guests.

Some say that a ban on “gay only” advertising could put them out of business.

There were also concerns that some heterosexual couples might be unhappy if they unwittingly booked into a gay hotel.

John Bellamy, who runs Hamilton Hall, in Bournemouth, described the new laws as “discrimination against gays”. He said: “We are a unique venue and we only admit gay and bisexual men. Under this law, we would go out of business. This so-called anti-discrimination law is actually discriminatory as it discriminates against gays.”

Another hotelier, Mark Hurst, co-owner of the exclusively gay Guyz hotel, in Blackpool, said that his gay clientele would feel uncomfortable mixing with straight customers.

The hotel had been catering for the gay market for the past 20 years, but only went “exclusive” last year because of customer demand.

He said: “It’s not all good news at all. I don’t welcome it one little bit. We intend to stay ‘men only’ exclusively for as long as we can.

“When we had a mixed environment, with gay, bi and heterosexual customers, people didn’t behave as they naturally would.

“Here in the hotel now we have gays who cuddle up when they’re watching a film but that never happened before. If this law is introduced it will deprive gays of a place where they can be themselves.”

Mr Hurst added that if the law was passed, he would apply for an exemption.

He said: “At the end of the day, this is our home and as a landlord we have the right to refuse entry to anyone without giving a reason.”

According to figures from Visit Britain and Out Now Consulting, the gay market is now worth £3.5 billion a year and represents a significant slice of the tourist industry.

In 2005, about 146,000 gay and lesbian visitors came to Britain from the United States alone, and internationally it is a top ten tourist destination for gays.

A survey by Visit Britain states: “The brand-loyal gay and lesbian market is a key niche. Traditionally gays and lesbians are well-educated, have an above-average income and a high propensity to travel off-season as well as during the peak holiday months.”

The concerns have been dismissed by the gay rights group Stonewall, which says that equality is more important than the right to be exclusive.

A spokeswoman said: “What gay people gain through having an equality law is much more than whether we can just run gay hotels.”