Wednesday, in the Casa Rosada (pictured below), Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed the congressional bill that legalized same-sex marriage in the country and, as soon as it appears in the Boletín Oficial (Official Bulletin), it will have the full force of law. Meanwhile, also in Buenos Aires, tourism minister Enrique Meyer addressed a meeting of the GNetwork 360, a three-day international convention on marketing and LGBT tourism, making it clear that visitors of all sexual orientations were welcome in Argentina. The convention has some high profile sponsors and participants, including Delta Airlines, Hertz, and the cities of Montreal and Philadelphia.
In the aftermath of the ground-breaking law, widely publicized around the world, gay tourists seem likely to flock to Argentina and, according to one of the convention’s organizers, they have already done so. Addressing the convention, Pablo de Luca of the Cámara de Comercio Gay y Lesbica Argentina (CCGLAR, Argentine Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce) claimed that gay tourists spent US$1.1 billion in Argentina in 2008, with US$850 million of that spent in Buenos Aires. In that year, he added, LGBT travelers accounted for 459,000 of the 2.7 million foreign arrivals in Argentina, and that total arrivals might reach five million this year.
Personally, I am skeptical of De Luca’s figures even though I agree that the trend is upward. Though I am unaware of how he obtained them, it seems implausible that 17 percent of all visitors to the country are gay or lesbian, especially when so many visits are relatively short ones - often brief shopping trips - from neighboring countries. That’s not to deny the growing significance of the gay market, but rather to wonder about the details.
In 2008, for instance, 30 percent of all arrivals (roughly 810,000) were long-distance visitors from Europe and North America; these would be, statistically, the biggest spenders, but there may also be issues of double-counting. If, for instance, a European visitor takes a day trip from Buenos Aires to the riverside Uruguayan city of Colonia del Sacramento, he or she might well be counted as two arrivals - initially at Buenos Aires’s international airport, then at the river crossing at Puerto Madero - in the same overseas trip.
Without denying De Luca’s claims, I hope to learn more about the topic soon; in the meantime, I’m happy to announce the winners of my contest to give away two copies of Moon Handbooks Buenos Aires, or another book of the winner’s choice. The answer to the quiz, as to which other Spanish-speaking country permits gay marriage is Spain, which legalized the practice in 2005.
In fact, I decided to give away three copies, which go to readers Lissa Barker of Alexandria, Virginia; David Vassar of Rice University’s Americas Center in Houston, Texas, and Katie Alley of Necochea, a beach resort in southern Buenos Aires province. Katie, an expat from the suburbs of Philadelphia, provides her own observations on life in Argentina at Seashells and Sunflowers.
Meanwhile, keep checking in for the next giveaway.