The Muslim Citizen Council addressed a letter (MCC letter to PrimeMinister +Cc) dated 26 February 2020 to the Hon. Prime Minister, other Ministers and some Muslim members of parliament opposing the AfriGay Mauritius 5-days’ vacation happening from 2 to 7 March 2020.
AfriGay, A calamity for the Nation
The letter pretentiously and ignorantly terms the event: AfriGay, A calamity for the Nation, while altogether speaking on behalf of other religions stating that these religions reject homosexuality.
To over-spill their overzealous personal beliefs, in another pretentious attempt to understand the world’s economy and tourism, the MCC feels that “…the AfriGay event will further damage the status of Mauritius in the world’s view…”
A repeat of 02 June 2018?
The position taken by the MCC hints towards the violent intolerance and menaces that prevented the holding of Pride of June 2018. Giving way to the machinations of the MCC is considered similar to the Government sponsoring homophobia – state sponsored homophobia.
In light of the already fragile position of Mauritius concerning human rights and its international relations, such a move shall be perilous.
Enn sel lepep, enn sel nasyon
First and foremost, together with the free and equal citizens of the country; believing in our shared values of being one people, one nation; and the diversity we hold so dear as a “nasyon ark-an-siel” (rainbow nation), the Young Queer Alliance firmly condemns the position taken by the Muslim Citizen Council for it undermines our national values.
LGBTQ Mauritians and other minorities: A shared fate
The YQA, representing and working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) people in Mauritius, understand the plights of being a minority group: the daily oppression we face; the discrimination that deters us from availing of equal opportunities and chances; the constant violations of our acquired human and constitutional rights owing to colonial laws; the constant fear of being bullied, harassed, abused, and facing verbal, emotional and physical violence; the denial of our civil rights as any free and equal citizen!
With the same compassion, the YQA empathises with the plights of ethnic and religious minorities in Mauritius, which are all too similar to what LGBTQ people face.
We believe with time, oppressed groups would be able to come to understand each other rather than the one who was oppressed becoming the oppressor in turn.
Contextualising LGBTQ tourism
Since a decade, businesses and organisations such as the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association have been evidencing the market benefits of LGBTQ Tourism.
In 2018, according to a research by Out Now Consulting, LGBTQ people was a huge market segment of travel and tourism: US $63.1bn, Brazil $26.8bn and UK $11,7bn.
According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), LGBTQ travel and tourism is set to be one of the fastest-growing markets worldwide.
In Mauritius, in 2017, the tourism sector alone represents some 8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 10% of the total employment and 8% of total investment.
LGBT Tourism: Double Income, No Kids (DINK)
Not suggesting that LGBTQ people are all not without kids, nor that they are among the wealthiest; and recognising that DINK can be an offensive term for LGBTQ people; advances in legislation for equal rights of LGBTQ people have resulted in economic benefits in a plethora of sectors, including in tourism.
A survey by Strub Media Group in the US referenced in Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics, and Theory of LGBT Liberation by Sherry Wolf found that a segment of LGBTQ household without kids earned nearly twice as much as the general population.
Furthermore, the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism makes clear that tourism is ‘an irreplaceable factor of self-education, mutual tolerance and for learning about the legitimate differences between peoples, cultures and their diversity’.
Gay cruising, honeymoons and wedding celebrations on the sandy soft beaches, under the pearl-like twilight stars, the caresses of the waves, the tropical atmosphere are all that those who have fought time and again for the right to love can desire to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime-moment.
In a country where tourism is one of the core pillars of our Mauritian economy, the way ahead in understanding tourism trends, is not only in terms of product and services diversification or development, but market and market segment diversification and development as well.
The Strategic Plan 2018-2021 of the Ministry of Tourism recognises the emergence of LGBT tourists with propensity to travel three times more than conventional tourists with higher spending powers. Inclusive tourism and increase in tourist spending can be partly addressed by LGBTQ tourism.
The 2017 “assises du tourisme” had four axes: accessibility, visibility, attractiveness and sustainability. The outcomes of the assises would definitely help in inclusion of the pink dollar market, inter-alia, through (a) tailor-made campaigns in niche markets; (b) developments of exclusive hideaways; and, (c) enabling legislation.
The Pink Dollar Market
Similar to the petrodollar, another tangible market revenue is the Pink Dollar – money generated by, with or for LGBTQ people or services and economic sectors related.
As stated in the UNWTO’s Second Global Report on LGBT Tourism, “[LGBTQ] travellers have become recognised as a segment that travels with greater frequency and demonstrates higher-than-average patterns of spending.”
In 2012, Out Now Consulting based in the Netherlands made projections on the global LGBTQ tourism market, establishing its potential at nearly 165 billion USD for leisure and travel spending. The total sample size exceeded 40,000 survey respondents from 25 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, UK, the U.S., and Uruguay.
As a trend, LGBTQ people are not known to be heavy savers but rather heavy spenders.
The imperfections of the developing Mauritian market allow for niche companies and markets to develop having for market segment LGBTQ people.
Mauritians; including LGBTQ Mauritians, would be amazed by a simple search on Google on “LGBT hotels in Mauritius” displays a seemingly endless number of high standards – high brand hotels providing diversified and inclusive services for LGBTQ people.
Financial services; including housing loans for LGBTQ people, health and other insurances, travel and tourism packages, gay-friendly dating apps, LGBTQ friendly legal and health services and entertainment outlets among others are high potential market products which need to be developed.
LGBTQ friendly and inclusive companies have better employee retention and productivity since LGBTQ employees feel that their workplace is a homeplace while altogether enabling them to have economic independence and stability. For companies, especially among those in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sectors, it also means better Human Resource turnout and working at odd hours.
The Young Queer Alliance does not view the stand of the Muslim Citizen Council in a positive eye since their position is against the core Mauritian values. Additionally, they not factoring the huge economic potential of Pink Dollar for Mauritius as well as the negative image which will affect Mauritius by cancelling the AfriGay event.
In an open world market, taking a leaf from cancelling Pride 2018 should serve as a reminder for the negative publicity from European markets which followed. Unnecessarily intervening in a market economy and the Mauritian government giving in to the whims and caprices of the MCC will not be welcomed by markets and investors.
Over the last few years, the United Nations Human Rights Committee and our countless country friends at the Universal Periodic Review have been edging Mauritius to be LGBTQ-inclusive. Mauritius has taken commitments. At the Young Queer Alliance, we are closely monitoring the situation since.
Therefore, we make an honest appeal to the Mauritian government to allow our market economy to be self-regulated and to cease LGBTQ-hostile policies.
- Global report on LGBT tourism published by UNWTO and IGLTA: https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284414581
- Ministry of Tourism, Adapting to the Changing Global Environment, Strategic Plan 2018 – 2021: https://www.tourism-mauritius.mu/trade/sites/default/files/filedepot/Strategicplan/Web_Final_STRATEGIC_Plan_2018-2021.pdf