Richard Gray, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau’s LGBTQ Managing Director, was recently honored with an Honest Travel Award from travel trade news website, eTurboNews (eTN).
The Honest Travel Award recognizes individuals and organizations who understand travelers’ needs, wants, and desires, and submissions are reviewed by the organization following an outside nomination. Gray was nominated by Ed Salvato, co-founder and editor in chief of ManAboutWorld, an immersive tablet-based digital publication that inspires gay travelers.
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“I’ve spent the last 18 years in the world of LGBT travel and tourism and have visited hundreds of hotels, over 75 countries, and 6 continents,” said Salvato. “Fort Lauderdale has always been a leader in the LGBT travel space but last year they hosted a same-sex marriage event (after it was legalized in Florida but before it was legal across the USA). And they pay special attention to an underserved segment, the transgender traveler. Richard has been key to the new emphasis on transgender travel.”
As the only CVB in North America with a designated LGBTQ department, in 2014 the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB commissioned a survey of transgender travelers in North America with the goal of identifying the travel motivations, needs and priorities of the market. The survey provided insight as to how the CVB could communicate appropriately with transgender travelers and deliver a sensitive and authentic welcoming experience, including providing training to the local community.
Greater Fort Lauderdale also hosted the largest transgender conference in North America in 2015, the 25th Annual Southern Comfort Conference. It was the first time the conference took place in Florida, and Greater Fort Lauderdale will host the conference for the next two years. For video highlights from Southern Comfort, visit:
In another first, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau commissioned CMI to conduct a national gay family travel survey in late 2015. While representing a smaller segment of the overall LGBTQ community, LGBTQ parents are a viable tourism segment for many destinations.
And, in February 2015, the CVB hosted a historic group wedding ceremony and vow renewal for 100 LGBTQ and straight couples, to commemorate the landmark announcement for same-sex marriage equality in Florida and the Bureau’s commitment to the LGBTQ community.
“Greater Fort Lauderdale began rolling out the rainbow carpet to LGBTQ travelers in 1995 and we haven’t looked back,” said Gray. “With approximately 1.5 million LGBTQ travelers spending $1.5 billion a year, we continue to proudly welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers, events, meetings, businesses and conferences.”
A pioneer, Greater Fort Lauderdale is home to hundreds of gay-owned and operated businesses, the most in the state, and the highest concentration of same-sex couple households in the country. It’s also home to one of the largest Pride Centers in the country, the world’s first AIDS museum, the global headquarters of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, and the Stonewall Museum, one of the only permanent spaces in the U.S. devoted to exhibitions relating to LGBTQ history and culture.
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