Theme parks bid for 'pink pound' with gay-only days

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The Independent Online

They have traditionally been the destination for family outings. But the Alton Towers and Thorpe Park theme parks are the latest venues trying to attract the lucrative "pink pound".

Both will close their doors to the general public for a day in September to welcome gay men and women over 18. Dance tents will be added as an extra enticement. It is the brainchild of the Tussauds Group, which runs the theme parks, working in partnership with the dating and lifestyle website, Gaydar. The idea has been tried and tested with Gay Days at Disneyland in Florida, although there the park remains open to everyone.

Michael Aldridge, from the Tussauds Group, said it was the availability of alcohol that prompted the decision to exclude people under 18. Drinking levels will be monitored to ensure public safety. "Everything in moderation," Mr Aldridge said.

The decision, which follows this month's announcement that the Queen Mary 2, the world's largest ocean liner, is to organise cruises for gay men and lesbians, shows a growing awareness of the potential market.

The value of the pink pound has been estimated at £5bn and is expected to rise as gay couples follow the heterosexual community in committing huge sums to celebrate civil partnerships.

The party-loving gay and lesbian niche market is being wooed to Thorpe Park in Chertsey, Surrey, on Saturday 9 September, and to Alton Towers in Staffordshire on Saturday 30 September. Tickets cost £26 for the day, if purchased before 17 July, but the price will then rise to £32.

The EuroPride 2006 parade is being held in London today while EuroPride 2006: The Show, with Sir Ian McKellen and other stars, takes place at the Royal Albert Hall in London tomorrow night.