May 26th, 2010
04:23 PM GMT
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Beefcake’s restaurant in Cape Town is the kind of place where pink feather boas and waiters wearing bunny ears are more than welcome. The burger bar is a gay-friendly eating spot that also welcomes straight people. It’s situated in the heart of the city, which is regarded as the gay capital of Africa.

Over the past eighteen months, the city’s gay tourists have helped buffer the effects of the global economic downturn, says Mariette du Toit Hembold, the CEO of Cape Town Tourism.

She told us on a recent trip to Cape Town that the gay travelers are a "market that travels and is recession proof. The gay market travels regardless of world circumstances; it’s a high yield traveler.  The spend per visitor is extremely good. Also, it is a traveler that is not as seasonal as other visitors are."

So while the ‘gay scene’ isn’t as big as it is in Sydney or San Francisco, some in the Cape Town hospitality industry do cater for an exclusive gay clientele. For example, the Glen hotel in Seapoint is a gay-only hotel and the owners are building extra rooms because business has been so good.

Also, during the summer, thousands of gay partygoers dress up in outrageous costumes for the Mother City Queer Project, which is regarded as THE party of the year by many in the gay community.

The property industry has also benefited from wealthy gay visitors – mostly from Europe – who buy second homes in sunny South Africa.

In some areas like De Waterkant, almost 50 to 60 percent of the residential properties are owned by foreign gay men, says estate agent Petrick Fourie of Leapfrog Properties.

One of his clients is Andy Mattar, a British man who has lived in South Africa for eight years. He is trying to sell his De Waterkant house for $1.1 million and is acutely aware that he and his partner have far more disposable income than straight families.  No school fees or other family commitments to worry about, he says.

Cape Town is already a prime destination for wealthy gay men from Britain, Germany and the Netherlands. Now Cape Town tourism is trying to get more gay people from elsewhere in the world to visit South Africa. This is important for the local economy because tourism is down 43 percent from last year, says Mariette du Toit Hembold.

So ‘pink pounds’ or ‘pink dollars’ are welcomed by the hospitality industry, which is still facing some tough times as the global travel industry still struggles with the effects of the economic meltdown.

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