Irish Gay Men and Tourism: Behaviours and Motivations

Bruce Carolan, Dublin Institute of Technology

Document Type Conference Paper

3rd Annual Conference on Tourism and Hospitality in Ireland, Dundalk Institute of Technology, June 12 - 13, 2007


This paper is an exploratory study of the holiday practices of an increasingly important segment of the Irish tourism market: gay men. Studies show that gay men are, in many respects, desirable tourists: they tend to be more highly educated, have greater disposable incomes and a higher propensity to travel. Yet there has been relatively little research – and virtually none in an Irish context – concerning gay male holiday destination choice, behaviours, and motivations. After reviewing the existing literature on gay men and tourism, this paper employs qualitative research methods – primarily focus group, depth interviews and observation – in an attempt to identify: How do they define a ‘gay holiday’? Would they go on a gay holiday? Where do Irish gay men go on holiday? What role does sexuality play in their holiday decision making? What are their experiences with tourism providers? These basic research enquiries facilitate a testing of various hypotheses found in the international tourism literature, including: that gay men employ tourism in ‘constructing’ a ‘gay identity,’ and that availability of sexual encounters is a significant motivating factor in holiday choice among gay men. This paper will be of interest to practitioners who might wish more insight into this potentially lucrative tourism market, and to academics interested in the role that tourism can play in identity construction and self actualisation. Working together in this field, practitioners and academics can help create tourism products that attract high-spending tourists while providing life-affirming experiences.