As part of Los Angeles’ ongoing Pride Month campaign, West Hollywood is looking to get a piece of China’s fast-growing outbound LGBT traveler market. Boasting powerful spending potential, estimated at around $300 billion, mainland Chinese LGBT consumers are increasingly traveling abroad in search of new experiences, and West Hollywood is set to provide that this month with a special group wedding for 10 same-sex couples—winners of an online contest sponsored by Alibaba.
A collaboration with a range of organizations in China and the United States, including the City of West Hollywood, Visit West Hollywood, the Beijing LGBT Center, PFLAG China, Taobao, and more, the “We Do” group wedding is an effort to raise awareness and acceptance of the LGBT community in mainland China.
West Hollywood has been closely involved with the campaign, with mayor Lindsey P. Horvath set to officiate the wedding on June 9. Local and regional government representatives will also take part, with mayor Horvath saying, “We hope that this wedding will send a strong message, especially to LGBT people across the globe, that the City of West Hollywood celebrates your right to marry and welcomes your destination wedding as a symbol of our commitment to equality for all.”
In addition to the group wedding, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the largest provider of programs and services for LGBT people in the world, will provide the newlyweds with a tour of its facilities and host an evening reception.
According to Bradley Burlingame, president and CEO of Visit West Hollywood, the city has a lot to offer China’s LGBT travelers. “With more than 40 percent of the residential population identifying as LGBT, the City of West Hollywood has long been one of the most popular gay travel destinations,” he said, adding that the city offers “an overarching spirit of inclusion and a longstanding support for the LGBT community that is woven into the city’s foundation.”
With same-sex marriage still not recognized in China, despite the decriminalization of homosexuality in mainland China 18 years ago, many Chinese LGBT couples have gone overseas for destination weddings. Thus far, Thailand has been one of the leading beneficiaries due to its proximity to China, but with West Hollywood’s strong overture to China, we may see California emerge as a top draw. This may be particularly true in light of last fall’s extension of U.S. visas for Chinese travelers, which is expected to spur significant growth in Chinese travel to the country in the years ahead.
Launched in February, Alibaba’s “We Do” campaign is a pioneering campaign in terms of recognizing the global aspirations and spending power of China’s LGBT community. For the campaign, Alibaba’s Taobao platform encouraged same-sex couples throughout China to submit short videos highlighting their love stories. The top 10 submissions were selected to take part in this month’s trip and group wedding in West Hollywood, and enjoy a “mini-Honeymoon” and shopping experience provided by luxury mall the Beverly Center. Blued, China’s most popular gay social app, will document the couples’ journeys for a documentary, which will later be released on Chinese video platforms like Youku and Tudou, reaching a potential audience of hundreds of millions in mainland China.