The Rainbow Flag of the LGBT community will unfurl with a new shade of Gray in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Hospitality executive Richard Gray has been appointed managing director for the LGBT Market for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. In his new position, Gray will be responsible for LGBT sales and marketing.
"Richard has been one of the most experienced and influential individuals in Greater Fort Lauderdale gay tourism and hospitality, and it is a great win for us to have him part of the team," said Nicki E. Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "For us the LGBT market is not a niche market but a market in its own right. With Richard's background as both a local proprietor and advocate for LGBT travel and tourism in the region, we feel the timing is right to make this next important step for us and this destination."
Gray will serve as official representative for the LGBT market in Greater Fort Lauderdale, developing and implementing short and long term strategic plans to increase meeting room nights and global travel and tourism.
Gray was previously owner of The Royal Palms Resort & Spa, which set new standards for LGBT accommodations, both locally and worldwide, and was the first gay guest house in the destination to achieve a five-star rating. In 2007, Gray was named a member of the Broward County Tourist Development Council, a group of influential officials and business owners that provide leadership on tourism growth in the destination. His return to Greater Fort Lauderdale LGBT tourism marketing coincides with the CVB's expanded push to capture a larger slice of the LGBT travel market as part of its "Hello Sunny" 2013 Marketing Plan.
As a CVB that tries to stay ahead of the curve, Greater Fort Lauderdale has and continues to be a cutting edge and aggressive CVB enjoying many "firsts" in the LGBT market. The GFLCVB was the first CVB in the US to launch an LGBT campaign in 1996, and today is the first to have a designated LGBT-only person to court the LGBT group/meetings, travel and tourism markets, as well as oversee a gaystream marketing initiative including a gaystream TV commercial, another first for a CVB.
"The sands of Fort Lauderdale run through my veins and I've always wanted to be a part of the community since I first moved here more than 20 years ago," said Gray. "Greater Fort Lauderdale has become the top LGBT destination in Florida. With the largest resident lesbian and gay population and more than 150 gay owned and operated businesses, my role is not to rest on our laurels and success, but to grow this affluent market even more."
Gray founded The Royal Palms Resort & Spa in 1991 and helped spearhead Greater Fort Lauderdale's status as one of the leading LGBT travel destinations in the country. He was first appointed to Greater Fort Lauderdale's Marketing Advisory Committee in 2003, and has served on several other high-level committees in the past, including the Broward Country Cultural Council in 2004, and the VISIT FLORIDA's LGBT committee in 2003. He was also an Executive Board Member of the Rainbow Carpet Lodging & Hospitality Alliance.
Gray served as Vice Chair of the Broward County Tourist Development Council and Chair of its Marketing Advisory Committee. He served as Member of the State of Florida Marketing Committee, 2004 - 2007; Executive Board Member and Founding Member of the South Florida Rainbow Alliance; President and Founding Member of World's Foremost Gay & Lesbian Hotels, 2003; Executive Board Member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, 1993 - 2000; and Founding Member, Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Community Center.
Gray has received several prestigious awards and recognitions for his tourism-related achievements, including induction in the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2000, he received a Home Town Hero Award from the Broward County Commissioners for his achievements in gay and lesbian travel, and in 1998 was inducted into PlanetOut's Travel Hall of Fame for outstanding individual achievement in gay travel.
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