New gay pride route in Tel Aviv irks excluded businesses

The Tel Aviv municipality expects 130,000 people to attend the week’s events, including some 30,000 tourists.

Gay pride parade (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Gay pride parade
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The annual Tel Aviv gay pride parade, scheduled for next Friday, is an economic boon for kiosks, bars and restaurants along the route, who cater to crowds of onlookers and participants looking to drink, cool off, or snack at the event.
A change in the usual parade route, however, has left a slew of small businesses in the dust.
Traditionally the parade departs from the Gan Meir park, turning up Bograshov Street and making a right on Ben-Yehuda Street, before descending to a giant beach party on Gordon Beach. This year, in order to cater to more family-oriented crowds, the party has moved from the beach to Charles Clore Park.
The parade was first rerouted south on Ben-Yehuda Street and down Allenby Street to the park, but an assessment that the Allenby intersection was unsuitable for the parade traffic changed the route again. In its final format, it will turn right on Hayarkon Street, but quickly detour down Frishman Street to the promenade.
As a result, none of the businesses on Ben-Yehuda Street will enjoy the benefits of the parade.
Shlomi Malka, who owns the Hamifgash Kiosk on Ben-Yehuda Street, said the decision was a “disaster” for him. Most years, he triples his staff for the parade, putting a cooler of beers and other drinks on sale street front.
“I would earn five to six times as much as a normal day,” said Malka, adding that he had not been aware of the changes, and hoped to reverse them in the future.
The workers at the Ima Sandwich shop, south of Bograshov Street on Ben-Yehuda Street, were briefly elated that the parade would pass by them, before discovering the route changed again.
“Why shouldn’t the parade go this way for once?” one worker asked.
The Tel Aviv Municipality pours NIS 2 million into the annual pride events, and boasts that it is the only local government to fully fund its pride parade. This year, it expects 130,000 people to attend the week’s events, including some 30,000 tourists.
Yet questions persist as to how much the events actually contribute to the local economy.
Airbnb, a popular website for renting local apartments, found that rental numbers in Tel Aviv “haven’t increased for that week. It’s pretty much normal traffic.”
In Toronto, a study sponsored by Toronto Pride found that “the 10-day festival and related activities and events created or maintained 3,470 jobs and generated $60.9m. in total tax revenue for governments.”
In Tel Aviv, however, no study has been done to assess the overall economic impacts the events have, if any.
Similar studies on the economic effects of big sporting events such as the World Cup and Olympics often find no overall economic boost.
Mira Marcus, a spokeswoman for the municipality, argued that the economic benefits are palpable.
“Gay tourism is something takes place year round, and there’s a spike in June,” she said. Around the world, studies show that gay tourists tend to “spend more money, tend to go to luxury accommodation, tend to go to the bar and order a bottle of vodka and not just a drink,” Marcus said.
Local businesses take notice, she said.
“They’re year-round gay friendly but this time of year they take the extra step to put up a flag and show that they’re welcoming to gay tourists.”
If the indignation displayed by businesses ousted from the parade route is any indication, she may be right.