I mentioned this to someone recently, and they joked, “that’s because most Americans wouldn’t know the names of any New Zealand cities.” Funny, and probably true, but not actually the reason our entire country is on the list, and not just one city. Lonely Planet says of New Zealand:
The Land of the Long White Cloud has long been lauded for its inclusive and progressive behaviour toward the LGBTQ community. In 1998 New Zealand was the first nation to adopt the label of ‘Gay/Lesbian Friendly’ when referring to businesses and accommodation – an initiative now recognised globally. The country offers a brilliant network of gay- and lesbian-friendly homestays which run the length and breadth of the country from the top of the semi-tropical North Island to the depths of the glacial South. Since passing same-sex marriage laws in 2013, New Zealand has actively promoted same-sex marriage tourism to the likes of Australia and other Pacific nations where equality laws are less progressive. [the link was in the original]So, it was that NZ is welcoming of LGBT travellers throughout the country that put the nation on the list, and I think that was the right thing to do: While there are regional variations, with some places offering more to LGBT travellers than others, there’s nothing like the vast difference in tolerance levels one would find in, say, the USA. This is partly because New Zealand is a small country, but it has more to do with how laid-back Kiwis are—even those who aren’t particularly personally LGBT-friendly are unlikely to be hostile. It’s simply not possible to make that same statement about a lot of other countries that have LGBT-friendly cities (including some on the list).
Earlier this year, Lonely Planet also named Queenstown as sixth on a list of the world’s “Top 10 gay wedding destinations”. For those into weddings overseas—gay or straight—Queenstown would be a spectacular place to have it.
Last year at this time, Lonely Planet ranked Auckland 10th on their list of "top 10 cities" in the world, as part of their "Best in Travel 2014" series. Later in that same series, they also ranked the West Coast of the South Island as eighth among the "top 10 regions" in the world. I mentioned both in a post last year.
New Zealand has a lot going for it as a destination for all travellers—there’s so much to see, do and experience in this beautiful country. But it’s the specialness of New Zealanders and our culture that makes this country an outstanding choice for LGBT travellers. It's nice to see that recognised.
The image accompanying this post shows New Zealand on December 27, 2004, and is from NASA's Visible Earth team.