Population size: 2 million in Broward County.
Destination Budget Size: $30 million.
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Visit Lauderdale’s president & CEO Stacy Ritter believes travel transcends politics, and that decisions made at the state level may not always align with their mission, values, or sense of community. That is why in their Everyone Under the Sun campaign, Fort Lauderdale purposely hit a nerve, and got noticed for its direct, progressive, and thoughtful stance on diversity, inclusion, and most of all, acceptance.
The purpose of our campaign is three-fold.
- Welcome all populations and communities to the destination.
- Convey the message that Fort Lauderdale is the LGBT+ capital of Florida.
- Celebrate the destinations’ 31 neighborhoods as embracers of diversity and acceptance.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Greater Fort Lauderdale — A Critical Campaign
As a destination spanning 24 coastlines and 31 diverse municipalities, Greater Fort Lauderdale is home to people who hail from over 170 countries and speak more than 147 different languages. Recognized as Florida’s LGBT+ capital, the destination has the country’s highest proportion of same-sex couple households, amongst the almost 1.8 million residents who call Greater Fort Lauderdale home. This majority-minority county is in Broward County which has a large Hispanic and Caribbean American population and the largest Jamaican community in the country.
For Visit Lauderdale, creating this campaign came at a time when controversial legislation was being passed at the state level targeting marginalized groups, including the LGBT+ community. It was a risky move and one many other destinations seemed unwilling to take but we thought the issue was too important to shy away from the risk. Prior to the launch, the team worked intently with focus groups to gain a deeper understanding of what our community stakeholders were searching for. Rather than highlight pure community engagement, our campaign made a proverbial pivot and showcased the diversity of the destination. By doing so, we paid proper homage to the people who live and work in Greater Fort Lauderdale. We also took a big chance by taking an unconventional approach. Instead of casting models in the campaign, we featured the actual residents of this diverse population who call our destination home. It speaks not only to the people who come here, but also to the people who live here and are reflective of our ultimate customer, the resident. Our approach was complicated, yet simple — to make the residents relevant in the campaign itself, as opposed to engaging the community.
“Any community that is marginalized needs to be represented. People need to feel seen, and we wanted this campaign to show we are seeing them.”
- Stacy Ritter, President & CEO Visit Lauderdale
Visit Lauderdale is Welcoming “Everyone Under the Sun” – Here’s Why That Matters
Just as the Don’t Say Gay Law and Stop Woke Act, which hinders the free discussion and teaching of LGBT+ and racial topics, were gaining traction, Florida found itself at the center of a heated debate. And with efforts at the state level to pass legislation on both, Greater Fort Lauderdale, one of the state's most progressive and diverse destinations, decided to lead with a positive message, showing the world that we are welcoming, open, and friendly to all visitors.
Our belief is the Power of Travel transcends politics and decisions made at the state level do not always align with our mission, values, or community. Despite the Parental Rights in Education (HB 1557) being signed into law, Greater Fort Lauderdale continues to be a progressive destination that is recognized throughout the tourism industry for our thoughtful leadership on diversity, inclusion, and acceptance. We encourage everyone to stand with us in support of inclusion and in support of the more than 88,000 tourism industry employees who work in our hotels, restaurants, retail, and attractions who call this destination home.
Our campaign is a message of hope. We want visitors to Florida to know that there are places in the Sunshine State which celebrate diversity despite the contentious and divisive legislation. Of the 2 million residents of Broward County, more than 170 countries are represented in our destination, making it a community where everyone under the sun lives. We adhere to Visit Florida's mission and align them with our strategic planning efforts when we can, but we do not avoid promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion as a core pillar of our brand promise. Thus, we utilize the funding to enhance the fact that Greater Fort Lauderdale is a place of inclusivity and acceptance.
“Mural by airbrush artist Avi Ram. Ram’s vibrant mural depicts Mother Nature looking out over the beauty of Greater Fort Lauderdale. Her welcoming expression is representative of the destination’s open-hearted acceptance of a diverse group of locals and visitors. Ram, who is well-known for his camouflage body painting, used his airbrush magic to incorporate several people into the mural’s scenery to highlight the area’s broad community. The mural literally came alive during the artist’s reveal in April, as those camouflaged models emerged from the scene for a creative and compelling message of inclusivity.” (Visit Lauderdale)
Everyone under the Sun — Community Engagement
We are an incredibly diverse community with residents from 170 different countries and 147 languages spoken across multi-generational households. And because we are incredibly diverse, we knew our “Everyone under the Sun” campaign needed to reflect that sentiment. Our residents are incredibly supportive of this campaign, which reaffirms our move to highlight who we are as a destination, was spot on. Plus, I fully believe that any community that is marginalized needs to be represented.
Greater Fort Lauderdale includes 31 diverse municipalities across the region. Aside from having a wide diversity of languages and backgrounds, it is also Florida's LGBT+ capital and is home to the highest percentage of households with same-sex couples. It is also a majority minority county with a large Hispanic and Caribbean-American population and recognized as one of the most authentic and welcoming places in the U.S. Presently, the destination’s greatest minority group is Hispanic. However, our beach-bound destination is also home to a considerably large Caribbean population. In fact, the largest Jamaican community in the United States calls Greater Fort Lauderdale home.
Campaign Takeaways - What Other Destinations Can Learn from Our Experience.
After taking some time to reflect on the work we have done and the strides we have made, we know there is still more we can do. So, we are going to celebrate the meaningful impact our campaign continues to make. Our work will not stop. In fact, our multicultural department is still seeking new initiatives to implement. And while we have the LGBT+ efforts “nailed” in our community, there are additional diversity pillars we need to amplify including people of color, accessibility, and indigenous cultures.
This is why it is critical for destination marketing organization CEO’s to be at the forefront of the conversation on how to navigate diverse challenges without becoming politicized or policy oriented. We can contribute positively by considering the impact of our roles and help facilitate bringing every type of visitor to the destination. Tracking resident sentiment is vital as our most important stakeholders are the people who call the destination home daily. We know our calling is to keep people employed and raise awareness about the devastation that occurred three years ago during the pandemic, when the hospitality workforce nearly evaporated.
I recommend having a seat at the table to talk with community stakeholders including Economic Development, NAACP, United Way, Urban League, and other entities in the tourism industry wheelhouse. As leaders, we must create a way to keep them in the conversation. The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, our economic development association, complements and aligns what they do with our goals, opening new possibilities for collaboration. We will spend our limited resources where we can, predominately outside the four corners of Broward County. I firmly believe our residents deserve to know that what we do is a strong economic generator. And it is why we are unwavering in telling our story authentically, and in a manner that reflects equity, diversity, and inclusion. William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet “to thine own self be true.” We live that every day at Visit Lauderdale.