Irish Gay Men and Tourism: Behaviours and Motivations

Bruce Carolan, Dublin Institute of Technology

Successfully submitted for the award of Master of Science (M.Sc) in Tourism Management to the Dublin Institute of Technology in 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 than non-gay people. Yet there has been relatively little research – and virtually none in an Irish context – concerning gay male holiday motivations, destination choice and behaviours. After reviewing the existing literature on gay men and tourism, this paper employs qualitative research methods – primarily focus groups, semi-structured interviews and participant observation – in an attempt to identify: Why do Irish gay men go on holiday? Where do they go on holiday and why do they go there? What role does sexuality play in their holiday decision making? How do they define a ‘gay holiday’? Would they go on a gay holiday? What role does sexuality play in the deselection of holiday destinations? 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’; that availability of sexual encounters is a significant motivating factor in holiday choice among gay men, and; that sexuality plays a much larger role in the deselection of potential holiday destinations than in the selection of where to go on holiday. My findings include: that ‘culture’ is a stronger motivating factor than ‘sexuality’ in choice of a holiday destination among Irish gay men; that once a holiday destination has been chosen, research is undertaken to determine the ‘gay scene’ at the prospective holiday destination; that Irish gay men use the internet to explore the gay scene at a holiday destination, including personal contact with individuals to inquire about the gay scene; that homosexuality is a much larger factor in the ‘deselection’ of a holiday destination than in the selection of a destination, and; that Irish gay men are not attracted to the notion of a ‘gay holiday’, which they define in various ways. Finally, there is a suggestion that certain Irish men may use tourism as a means of avoiding self-identification as gay or bisexual, rather than as a means of constructing a gay identity.