San Diego tourism bureau offers businesses freebies in move to be more inclusive – The San Diego Union-Tribune

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In a move to diversify its reach in the hospitality industry, the San Diego Tourism Authority is launching a new program intended to benefit businesses owned by people of color, LGBTQ+, women and veterans.
The pilot program, which tourism officials say is one of the first of this scope in the country, is meant to promote equity and inclusion in the industry by, among other things, providing free membership in the bureau, mentoring, education, and networking opportunities to a more diverse demographic.
Bank of America and San Diego Gas & Electric are the co-sponsors of the pilot program, which will offer participants a package of services valued at over $10,000, including free membership in the Tourism Authority, mentoring from a successful operator or owner of a hospitality business, financial coaching and legal training, and a $1,000 credit toward the Tourism Authority’s digital advertising platforms.
Advertising opportunities in the San Diego Business Journal and San Diego Magazine will also be offered.
Initially, the program will be open to 10 participants, but the Tourism Authority hopes to raise additional funds to expand the initiative.
Against the backdrop of the racial reckoning that has swept the country since the killing of George Floyd last year, the Tourism Authority decided it wanted to do more to promote diversity and equity in its own industry, said Julie Coker, CEO of the tourism bureau.
“As we we were looking at the recovery road map for tourism, one thing we wanted to make sure we had was equity, diversity and inclusion around the table,” Coker said. “We thought, who is able to be a part of our industry from a business standpoint. We just felt there was an opportunity here to assist minority-owned businesses that have served underserved populations, and we wanted to make sure everyone is benefiting as tourism comes back.”
Among the business categories eligible to receive help free of charge are restaurants, retail outlets, activities and attractions, museums, transportation services, and meeting and event organizations.
Hospitality businesses that are excluded from the program are accommodations, airlines and cruise lines.
Bank of America and San Diego Gas & Electric are making financial contributions to the initiative, and the Procopio law firm will be volunteering its time for for legal training, Coker said. The tourism bureau won’t have any out-of-pocket costs because some of the perks being offered small businesses will be done through trades and in-kind donations.
The deadline to apply for participation in the program is Nov. 5. Those who are selected will be notified by Nov. 15. To apply, visit
“Some of the businesses may not be aware of how they can benefit from travel and tourism so it’s an opportunity to introduce travel and tourism to them,” Coker said. “And we’re also hoping the ads that are offered can allow them to attract additional customers. So the whole goal is helping minority-owned businesses to expand their footprint in San Diego.”
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