One of the travel industry's leading professionals in building diversity, equity, and inclusion into destinations, Richard Gray, was honored tonight at the Out100 celebration of the year's honorees.
The below profile previously ran on Out.com, read the orginal here.
Richard Gray’s biggest accomplishment this year was supposed to be pulling off the first-ever Pride of the Americas, a five-day celebration expected to bring 300,000 visitors from two continents and 53 nations to Greater Fort Lauderdale, Fla.’s beaches — before it had to be postponed in the face of a global pandemic.
“It is such a pivotal time for travel,” Gray acknowledges. But in that he sees “a great opportunity to satisfy this pent-up demand for wanderlust.” When travelers are ready to return, he’s determined his city will be ready and able to welcome “everyone under the sun.”
Gray, who identifies as gay, leads the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion department. “Inclusion means that all individuals are respected, accepted, and valued,” he explains. “Diversity means recognizing and respecting everyone’s unique qualities and attributes. Diversity in the business environment is about more than gender, race, and ethnicity. It has evolved, and it now includes employees with diverse religious and political beliefs, different socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientation, culture, people of size, and people with disabilities.”
In helping the bureau launch the world’s first global marketing and mainstream advertising campaign featuring transgender models (in 2016), Gray established himself as a visionary in the travel industry. And the bureau continues to innovate, unveiling ads earlier this year featuring disabled, plus-size, and older models.
The agency’s latest campaign, “Celebrate You,” is another global first. “It is our best campaign to date and underscores Greater Fort Lauderdale’s diverse community and welcoming vibe,” he says. “In this campaign, we include trans, drag, lesbian, gay, nonbinary, disabled, straight, and minorities in a very nonresort way. These are locals that live here, and they are not models. It is truly a historic, inclusive, and diverse global campaign.”
As part of this campaign, the bureau added hues representing people of color to its Pride colors “to show our commitment to and belief in Black and brown people.” It is the first destination marketing organization to add these colors to the flag. “The icing on the cake for me has been to see the impact my work has had on the global LGBT+ community,” Gray says. “You can’t be invisible. Visibility creates awareness and awareness leads to acceptance and acceptance ends discrimination. It’s essential for all of us to use our own personal platforms to speak out. We are not free until we are all free.”