Stories of Pride: Richard Gray, Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB

Richard Gray, Photo by Rachel Covello, OutCoast.com

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Written by Ivan Quintanilla, TravelingIQ.com

Though most of us can’t physically travel right now, there’s still a wonderful world out there for us to explore together. Traveling IQuarantine spotlights people and places through which we can escape our sequestered realities… and in the process expand our Traveling IQ.

Richard Gray of Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and oversees Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Richard Gray

Traveling In Quarantine: Richard Gray in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Richard Gray makes travel GAY!

He is currently a Senior Vice President for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) and oversees Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

Born in London, he moved to New York in 1982 as an Investment Banker. In 1991, he made Fort Lauderdale his home when he created the Royal Palms Resort; and in 1995, he developed Greater Fort Lauderdale’s highly successful LGBTQ marketing initiative.

Richard Gray is the Godfather of Gay Travel.

Under Richard’s guidance, Greater Fort Lauderdale was the first tourism board to start a LGBTQ department and remains the only CVB in North America with a department designated solely to LGBTQ outreach.

Richard Gray is the George Washington of Gay Travel.

He is an inductee in the IGLTA (International LGBTQ+ Travel Association) Hall of Fame, a Fort Lauderdale Hometown Hero and a recipient of the Gay+ Award for Achievement from MTV/Logo.

Richard Gray is the Madonna of Gay Travel.

In 2016, Q.Digital gave Richard an honorary award for his commitment to transgender tourism. The following year, in 2017, the United Nations highlighted his transgender destination leadership. In 2018, he received the Stonewall Visionary Award. And in 2019, Richard was recognized with the HERO Award from the Greater Fort Lauderdale LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce.

Richard Gray is the Superman of Gay Travel.

He’s been named one of the most influential business leaders in South Florida and has been interviewed on all the major TV networks in the United States, as well as by almost every major newspaper in this country (and many international publications). Suffice it to say, I am beyond honored that he took some time off from saving the LGBTQ travel world, to answer a few questions for Traveling IQ.

There are many more than 50 shades to Mr. Gray and, lucky for queer travelers, each shade shines with a different color of the rainbow.

Traveling IQuarantine interviews Richard Gray and together we explore Fort Lauderdale, Florida:

An aerial view of Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale

IQ: What are three things you’d like readers to know about you?

Richard: I love to travel, love the beach and love elephants.

You have been an amazing trailblazer in LGBTQ travel, was there a moment when the travel path clicked for you? And if so, when?

Yes, in the mid-1990s, when I was the vice chairman of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, corporate America started to pay attention to the LGBT+ travel market. They recognized the importance of this untapped market, with double income and no kids.

Why did you choose to make Fort Lauderdale home?

I met a man here. I fell in love not only with him, but with the gorgeous beach, the Intracoastal Waterway and the palm trees.

Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale Beach

What are three spots that you love in Fort Lauderdale and why?

I love the beach. The sound of the waves are so therapeutic. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is a hidden treasure. It is nestled between Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Intracoastal Waterway. There is a 2-mile loop in the park, which is great for running as well. It is very tranquil there. Last but not least, I love the Florida Everglades. It’s just about a 25-minute drive from Fort Lauderdale Beach. Riding on an airboat, you can see alligators and birdlife in their natural habitat. For an outdoors enthusiast like myself, Greater Fort Lauderdale offers a wonderful variety of experiences.

What are three LGBTQ places that you love in Fort Lauderdale?

I love Hunters for its great atmosphere. Rosie’s Bar & Grill is another favorite as it’s always packed, has delicious food and is so inclusive and welcoming for all. Bubbles & Pearls is fantastic. This restaurant is intimate, cool, and edgy and has a phenomenal celebrity chef at the helm (Chef Josie Smith-Malave featured on “Top Chef”).

We were all disappointed that the first Pride of the Americas had to be postponed due to the current health crisis, why did you feel it was important to help create Pride of the Americas?

It is important to unite North America and South America and to share our knowledge with the private and public sector and to unify everyone. Not everyone is fortunate to live in Greater Fort Lauderdale, where diversity is celebrated and you are free to love whomever you choose.

Pride Beach Party in Fort Lauderdale
Pride of the Americas comes to Fort Lauderdale

Is there anything you can share about the Pride of the Americas postponement plans?

We’re so excited for the continued momentum for this transformational and historic event, and we’re looking forward to welcoming everyone under the sun. Stay tuned!

You continue expanding Fort Lauderdale as a LGBTQ-welcoming destination, can you tell me a little about your outreach to the trans traveler?

Four years ago, Greater Fort Lauderdale became the first destination in the world to create a transgender marketing campaign. Now the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau includes trans, lesbian, gay and straight people in all its mainstream marketing initiatives. We are continuously working to reach the transgender community to show them we are a destination that is diverse, welcoming, authentic and accepting. We have been honored to welcome the Southern Comfort Conference, the largest annual trans conference in North America, to our destination for several years now.

If Coronavirus is magically cured overnight and quarantine ends abruptly, where will you choose to celebrate?

I would go out to dine at one of my favorite restaurants. I’m happy to support our local restaurants that remain open for takeout and delivery during this time, but I also look very much forward to the ambiance of dining in.

If you could choose anywhere in the world to Quarantine, where would it be and why? 

This is quite an easy question for me. I would be right where I am now – here in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Our community is known for being authentic and welcoming, and we are resilient.

You are so knowledgeable about LGBTQ travel, how do you see travel for our community evolving over the next decade?

I see LGBT+ travel becoming more integrated into mainstream. People want to be around people. We are a destination that has broken down barriers. Our destination has been talking about LGBT+ travel since 1996, and we were ahead of the curve. We sell ourselves as a destination that is welcoming to all travelers. When I opened my hotel business in 1991, I used it as a platform to speak out for equality and inclusion. Our society is now more integrated.

Follow the Traveling IQ (In Quarantine) series website and Instagram page, highlighting people and places through which we can escape our sequestered realities.

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