Richard Gray is a pioneer and leader in the field of GLBT travel. His guidance and vision have been central to Fort Lauderdale’s emergence as a top gay travel destination. Richard has been hailed as an icon in the gay tourism industry and “the man who put Fort Lauderdale on the map” for gay travelers.
Building Business Acumen - London Stock Exchange and Investment Banking
A native of the UK, Richard began his career on the London Stock Exchange. His experience as one of the Exchange’s youngest members taught him to be thoughtful and strategic in business - qualities that later gave him a decisive edge in the travel industry.
His work in international business brought Richard to New York City in 1983, where he achieved success in investment banking. As a boy, Richard had dreamed of someday living in a sunny place with swaying palm trees. He found that place while on vacation in Fort Lauderdale, known the time as a second-rate, rowdy destination for spring-breakers. But Richard saw that the city’s special ingredients – the waterways, beaches, and climate – hadn’t yet been “put in the oven.” He knew that Ft. Lauderdale could become a world-class destination.
Creating an Acclaimed Resort: The Royal Palms, 1991-2008
In 1991, Richard transformed a drab 1950s apartment complex into what would become one of North America’s most highly-acclaimed gay accommodations. When he opened The Royal Palms in Fort Lauderdale, Key West was Florida’s primary destination for winter gay getaways, and his project seemed unlikely. But Richard’s combination of grit, determination, and belief soon began to pay off. In 1993, he received the City of Fort Lauderdale Beautification Award, marking the respect he had earned in the mainstream community. Since then, the accolades have poured in, including the Superior Small Lodging "White Glove" Award (2005-2008), the Superior Small Lodging Award of Excellence (1997 and 2002), PlanetOut’s top Five-Palm rating, and the 2008 PlanetOut Travel Award for Best Gay Resort in North America.
Building Bridges: Gay Liaison to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1996-2008
Richard has achieved remarkable success in securing cooperation from field leaders and building community bridges. In 1996, he broached the subject of creating a gay marketing campaign to the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB. Starting out with a $35,000 budget, Richard created a savvy plan to bring gay travelers to the area. Today, gay tourism provides over half a million dollars annually in county tax revenue. Richard’s success as Gay Liaison to the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB has come from building relationships slowly, staying ahead of the curve, and not letting people down once trust is earned.
New Horizons: The Emerging GLBT Market
In 2008, Richard sold The Royal Palms to devote himself fully to assisting the hospitality industry – both gay and mainstream – in reaching the GLBT market. He understands that today’s gay travelers don’t necessarily choose to stay at gay resort. Richard sees new opportunities for mainstream hotels to attract and integrate GLBT travelers. His 17 years of experience operating a top resort also make him uniquely-qualified to advise the owners of gay accommodations on business and marketing plans built for success.
Richard currently serves 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.
Richard has received numerous awards, including the Hall of Fame Award for commitment and achievement in gay travel, International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, 2002; the Hall of Fame Award for outstanding individual achievement in gay travel, Planet Out, 1998; the Home Town Hero Award for achievement and commitment in gay lesbian travel on the local level, Greater Fort Lauderdale County Commission, 2001; the President’s Award, International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, 1997; and the Alumni Award, Our World Magazine, 1998.
He has been featured in gay tourism articles in Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel and has also been interviewed for broadcast programs on gay travel by ABC, NBC, BBC1, Comcast, and NPR.
Richard is an avid runner and has participated in track and field events since 1994. He is also a devoted gardener, having designed the much-admired gardens at The Royal Palms.