San Diego Tourism Authority offers program to increase diversity
Speaker 1: (00:00)
The tourism industry thrives on welcoming everyone who visits San Diego. Now the San Diego tourism authority is also trying to welcome more diverse businesses into the fold. A new program will select businesses owned by people of color, LGBTQ women and veterans to receive a package of tourism related mentoring and advertising. That package also includes membership in the bureau tourism bureau officials say this pilot program is aimed at opening up the industry to more diversity and equity. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune reporter Laurie Weisberg, Laurie, welcome.
Speaker 2: (00:37)
Thanks for having me.
Speaker 1: (00:39)
What prompted this move by the tourism authority?
Speaker 2: (00:43)
Um, you know, I was, I asked the current head of the tourism authority, Julie Coker. She said that, um, she felt like she was looking back at this, you know, this last year racial reckoning that began with the, uh, the killing of George Floyd. And as we're coming out of a very difficult period for our economy for tourism, she felt that it was, it was time to give more access to minority owned businesses. Um, ones that don't normally have access that to, to be able to promote a market themselves, which can be very expensive.
Speaker 1: (01:18)
Is there a lack of diversity in our tourism industry?
Speaker 2: (01:21)
I don't think that the tourism leaders themselves will come out and say that, but, but I think there are, I think there is historically I think, you know, especially, you know, the large hotels and many of them are owned by large companies, um, with a history of being more white male dominated. I think, I think that's true. I think you're seeing in the restaurant industry, um, increasing diversification, but, um, I, I have a, I have a tendency to think that that, yes, there, there is a lack of diversity. And you see that also on, um, maybe not as recently, but on some of the boards of some of these organizations, um, especially like the hotel lodging industry. I think there is to a degree, a recognition that there is some lack of diversity.
Speaker 1: (02:05)
Now the businesses selected for this program must be owned by either women or minority groups, but what kinds of businesses are they?
Speaker 2: (02:13)
Okay, so, um, they can be restaurants, they can be retail, they can be shops that you don't necessarily think of as, you know, tourism or hospitality, um, activities and attractions, museums, um, meeting and events services. A lot of those kinds of companies had a really tough time, um, during the pandemic and some, even without a business, what
Speaker 1: (02:35)
Will they receive if they're selected?
Speaker 2: (02:38)
So, um, they, they, they say that the value of this for each package is about $10,000. So first off they get free membership in the tourism authority. And I checked for, for businesses of the kind of size we're talking about, um, that will probably qualify for this. The membership's about $550 a year. Um, they'll get some up, they'll get a $500 voucher for a course through UC San Diego extension, but get a, a thousand dollars credit to use on the tourism authorities, digital advertising platform, which is widely seen. And they'll get two free quarter page ads in the San Diego business journal and the San Diego magazine, but you can't necessarily calculate the financial value of my thing will be especially helpful is that they're going to get coaching from a mentor who has, who had already is a very successful operator owner of a tourism or hospitality business. And I think that will be invaluable. And, um, bank of America is one of the co-sponsors and they're going to be providing some financial coaching. SDG is also a sponsor and then Procopio for law firm is going to provide some free legal training. So I think those are the real perks of this, uh, this program.
Speaker 1: (03:54)
Lori, how is San Diego's tourism industry? How is it doing now?
Speaker 2: (03:59)
So the tourism industry by comparison to the early days of the pandemic is doing great. But of course, when you compare it to before the pandemic, when tourism was breaking records, it's, it's nowhere near there. So we took a look at the tourism authority, pulled some records for me, and they, they looked at between January and July of this year. Um, overall visitation had really grown rapidly to 13 million visitors, which is a 50% increase over the same period in 2020. But of course that's when the pandemic was however that false still far short of 2019, when during that same period, it was 20.9. So that's about 8 million visitors day and night, eight day and overnight 8 million fewer visitors. So you can see, we still have a long way to go. And we're hearing both nationally and locally that the, the full return probably won't be till 20, 23, maybe 2024, but it's ramping up. It's, it's the business, it's the business and international tourism. That's really suffering, leisure, leisure travel is doing very well. Actually.
Speaker 1: (05:09)
Now this special program by the San Diego tourism authority, it's just starting out as a pilot program. How many businesses will be selected this time around?
Speaker 2: (05:19)
So there'll be 10 businesses. And that probably doesn't sound like a whole lot, but I think they're already getting, um, a lot of interest and they they're already, before they've even launched it, um, have, are already trying to raise some money to finance the next round and to grow it. Um, and they're, they're not actually having to put out hard dollars, the tourism authority itself, cause they're, they're relying on the sponsorships. And then some of the perks that are being offered, they do it through kind of industry trade so that they, um, they don't have to pay for it. So, um, but they are going to have to know, find some more sponsorships and raise more money to, to expand it. But I think they have every intention of not ending this pilot program and
Speaker 1: (06:05)
The deadline for applying is coming up. Isn't it?
Speaker 2: (06:08)
That's right. It's very soon. It's November 5th is the deadline to apply. And then those you'll learn pretty quickly. And have they got selected they'll know by November 15th, which ones will be participating.
Speaker 1: (06:20)
I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter Lori Weisberg, Laurie, thank you so much.
Speaker 2: (06:27)
And thank you.
The tourism industry thrives on welcoming everyone who visits San Diego. Now, the San Diego Tourism Authority is also trying to welcome more diverse businesses into the fold.
A new program will allow selected businesses, owned by people of color, LGBTQ+, women and veterans to receive a package of tourism-related mentoring and advertising. The package includes membership in the tourism bureau. Ten businesses will be selected for the pilot program, but the bureau hopes to expand it in the future.
Tourism bureau officials say the program is aimed at opening up the industry to more diversity and equity. San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Lori Weisberg says the CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority Julie Coker referenced the racial reckoning happening around the country as an inspiration for the program.
Businesses eligible to apply include restaurants, retail outlets, activities and attractions, museums, transportation services, and meeting and event organizations.
The deadline for interested businesses to apply is Nov. 5.