Drawing more than a million LGBTQ+ visitors a year, Greater Fort Lauderdale is a top destination in part because of its gorgeous beaches, great parties, delicious food, and friendly accommodations; but also because the area is home to a thriving and diverse queer community (one of the country’s highest concentrations of same-sex couples). One of the first cities to enact nondiscrimination legislation, it now hosts numerous LGBTQ+ events including the annual Southern Comfort Transgender Conference and the upcoming inagural Pride of the Americas.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau has long been breaking barriers and leading the industry toward greater inclusion of all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, body size, race, or ability. The bureau's Diversity, Inclusion & Equity department, led by Richard Gray, was the first-of-its-kind arm specifically aimed at improving diversity and welcoming LGBTQ+ visitors.
Over the years the GFLCVB has demonstrated its commitment to diversity through inclusive advertising campaigns, begining in 1996 with their original ad for the rainbow market. Gray recalls, "It was called Immerse Yourself and ... we modeled it on Greg Louganis as he used to train here in Fort Lauderdale. It was a guy underwater who had just dived into a swimming pool."
Below are some of the agency's best queer-inclusive marketing since 2010.
This 2010 Mild to Wild ad ran globally (in LGBTQ+ publications like Instinct, but also in the region's mainstream tourism outreach). Gray says, "This was when we started to really promote visiting Greater Fort Lauderdale and just relaxing at the beach and/or going to the multitude/plethora of gay bars and clubs." The ad won a Gold ADDY at the 2010 American Advertising Awards and also saw the lauch of the GFLCVB LGBTQ+ mobile site.
In 2016 Greater Fort Lauderdale became the world’s first destination to hire transgender models and market to the trans community. That year at the HSMAI Adrian Awards in New York, the agency received a Platinum Award for Destination Inclusion for their commitment to the trans community. Gray recalls, "This also included our historic launch of Hello Good Life that we released a video in Times Square in NYC that ran on a billboard right next to the
Lion King, which featured Isabella Santiago [left on the right], a former Miss World Transgender.
The Open Hearts Wanted ad ran in 2018 and won the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau another ADDY Award. "This is one of my favorites as I was with the photographer walking along the beach and I impulsively asked him to start shooting and we found our hero shot," Gray recalls. Like most of the agency's ads, this one featured locals: a real lesbian couple who lives in Fort Lauderdale.
Gray (who was named to the Out100 in 2020) calls this "my best work to date." The Celebrate YOU campaign includes trans, nonbinary, drag, straight, disabled, lesbian, Black, gay, and Latino residents of the area. "Its simple buts says it all," Gray adds. "And most of all it truly reflects Greater Fort Lauderdale being so inclusive, diverse, accepting, safe and welcoming. We also became the first destination in the world to add black and brown to the Pride colors to show our commitment and belief in the Black and brown communities."