Is Queenstown as gay-friendly as we’d like to think it is? And even if we are, does the rest of the world know that? Philip Chandler looks at a major new initiative that should provide answers to those two questions – in the affirmative.
The new directors of Queenstown’s Gay Ski Week – renamed Winter Pride – plan on making the resort gay-friendly every week of the year.
In a New Zealand first, locals Martin King and Mike Hughes have launched the Queenstown Pride Pledge.
It’s designed to enable individuals and businesses to publicly support the rainbow community’s rights to be visible, safe and healthy.
And in a coup, they’ve co-opted mayoress Karen Boult as patron of the pledge.
The new initiative promises to be a win-win for both tourism and the local rainbow community.
By becoming visibly gay-friendly, the resort should attract more rainbow travellers with their valuable ‘pink dollars’.
But members of the local LGBTTQI+ community should benefit, too, as employers commit to running inclusive workplaces.
King says he and Hughes realised their Winter Pride festival, starting September 1 this year, is “a celebration of pride” for only one week, ‘pride’ being a word adopted worldwide to celebrate or recognise the rainbow community.
“But what happens in Queenstown around ‘pride’ the other 51 weeks of the year?
“We are recognised as one of the most desirable destinations in the world, but if you’re an LGBT or rainbow traveller, you go to San Francisco or Sydney or Mykonos or Barcelona or London.”
These, he explains, are gay-friendly destinations where it’s considered normal to walk down the street with your LGBT partner hand-in-hand.
By contrast, King says Queenstown has no gay bars, cafes or hotels.
He doesn’t believe locals are homophobic.
“I think it’s the opposite, but it’s invisible.”
However, through ignorance, rather than prejudice, hospitality staff, for example, can often offend rainbow travellers, he says.
“Like, you go a hotel and the staff go, ‘I’ve booked you in two separate beds’, or they ask, ‘when’s your wife checking in?’
“I’ve been on the receiving end of that myself.
“My personal view is it’s because we have a large transient workforce which means it’s hard to train them before they leave.”
King and Hughes’ first step, as it were, was to organise the Beach Street ‘Rainbow Crossing’ which mayor Jim Boult opened last month.
The next step is encouraging individuals and businesses to take the pledge, which many already have.
For individuals it’s free while for businesses it ranges between $65 and $250 for entry-level, silver and gold supporters.
Besides certificates signed by mayoress Boult, businesses receive rainbow stickers for their doors and the opportunity to participate in workshops for their staff.
Funds go towards collateral and workshops, as well as supporting Winter Pride.
Queenstown’s Ray White real estate firm has jumped on-board as foundation sponsor.
Co-owner Cam Reed says they didn’t sign on to try to “sell a whole bunch of houses”, but because their culture’s based on family values like respect, dignity and inclusion.
“We see our relationship with the Queenstown Pride Pledge as a natural extension of these family values, and we are excited to be part of it.”
The Pride Pledge website is: www.pridepledge.co.nz