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Simmons looks to attract LGBTQ tourists

Initiatives planned: Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Initiatives to attract LGBTQ travellers to Bermuda are coming, the House of Assembly heard yesterday.

Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, said: “Bermuda has to be a place that welcomes all. It has to be a place where all can feel included and a part of a great experience.”

Mr Simmons said that the Bermuda Tourism Authority had held meetings in New York specifically focusing on LGBTQ tourism.

He added: “There will be some initiatives rolled out over the next couple of months.”

The comments came during a debate on the Budget for Economic Development and Tourism.

Leah Scott, deputy Opposition leader and Shadow Minister of Tourism and Transport, said that the LGBTQ tourism market was one that Bermuda needed to tap into.

But she said: “I don’t know how we are going to do this with the Domestic Partnership Act.”

Ms Scott repeated that she was not in support of same-sex marriage.

She added: “However, what people do with their lives and in their houses is their business. At the end of the day, the LGBTQ community spends money, and they spend big money.”

Ms Scott said LGBTQ tourism was worth $211 billion per year worldwide.

She added: “This is an area that we need to get with the programme on. This is an area that we actually need to pursue and investigate.”

Mr Simmons said that Ms Scott “has it right”.

Referencing the controversial Domestic Partnership Act, Mr Simmons said: “When you compare Bermuda to many of the destinations in the Caribbean, Bermuda is far in advance of many of our competitors.”

He added: “Bermuda has now done something that many of our competitors have not done: guaranteed statutory rights for same-sex couples.

“When I have somebody e-mail me and say ‘I’m cancelling my trip and I’m going to Jamaica’, then clearly we have a better message to deliver.”

The Domestic Partnership Act was passed by Parliament in December and given Royal Assent by John Rankin, the Governor, last month.

The law has yet to come into effect.

It was created to stop same-sex marriages and replace them with partnership arrangements open to both gay and straight couples.

A Supreme Court challenge on the law will be heard on May 21 and 22.