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San Diego Tourism Authority Announces Selection of First Cohort for its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Tourism Accelerator

Pilot program will provide resources and mentoring to businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans and those who identify as LGBTQ+

December 7, 2021

Today the San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA) announced the first participants selected for its Tourism Accelerator pilot program. The initiative, one of the first of its kind in the country, is designed to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the local tourism industry by providing free membership, mentoring, education and networking opportunities to businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans and those who identify as LGBTQ+.

The first cohort, which was selected from nearly 50 applicants, reflects the diversity of the region and the industry, embracing a wide range of business types with owners from a variety of backgrounds. They include:

Access Trax LLC: Provider of portable access mats that ensure stable surfaces for mobility device users to easily access outdoor recreation over sand, grass, gravel and snow.
Owner - Kelly Twichel
Female-owned business

Alternative Strategies: A full-service marketing and PR agency focused exclusively on the hospitality industry.
Owner – William Lopez
Hispanic/Latinx, LGBTQ+-owned business

Common Theory Public House:  Bar and restaurant. 
Owner – Cristian Liang
Asian-owned business

Fargo's BBQ/Jamaican Cuisine: Jamaican cuisine caterer and food truck.
Owner - Jacinth (Elaine) Williams
Black, Jamaican, female-owned business

Finest City Improv:  Improvisational comedy shows and classes.
Owner - Amy Lisewski
LGBTQ+, female-owned business

Game Face Video SD: Creative-youth developer and technical training company in the field of video and photography.
Owner – Regina V. Greenlee
Black, veteran-owned business

Gossip Grill: Lesbian/LGBTQ+bar.
Owner – Moe Girton
LGBTQ+, woman-owned business

It's In the Details: A boutique travel and event company with concierge-style services.
Owner – Nita Cintron
Black, woman-owned business

Pop Up Picnic Co.: Luxury picnic event company.
Owner – Lauren Kimmons
Woman-owned business

Social Artistry LLC: Event company with a focus on empowering diverse communities.
Owner – Lauren Garces
Asian, African-American, woman-owned business

Bank of America and SDG&E are the financial sponsors of the pilot program, which will begin in January 2022 and offer participants a suite of services valued at over $10,000, including:

  • Complimentary Membership in SDTA and free admission to select SDTA events as well as special access to SDTA senior staff, board members and program investors.
  • Coaching from a dedicated mentor who is a successful operator or owner of a tourism or hospitality business.
  • Financial coaching from Bank of America and legal training from Procopio.
  • $500 voucher for a course through UC San Diego Extension.
  • A $1,000 credit to use on SDTA’s digital advertising platforms.
  • Two free quarter-page ads in both the San Diego Business Journal and San Diego Magazine for those businesses that are not already advertisers.

Julie Coker, SDTA’s president and CEO, said the goal is to grow the Tourism Accelerator into an annual program with more participants, because creating an inclusive tourism industry is critical to its ongoing health and sustainability.

“When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, they must be intentional and have a business case,” Coker said. “The goal of this Tourism Accelerator is to increase the number of diverse businesses in our membership base, because that will give our visitors more diverse products from which to choose. When we grow the number of diverse businesses, we are helping to ensure the local tourism recovery is equitable for everyone, and that is a win-win for our residents and our visitors.”

A look at the selection criteria:

  • Applicants needed to be tourism and hospitality businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans or those who identify as LGBTQ+, and based in the San Diego region.
  • Organizations must have operated for at least one year to qualify.
  • Business categories included, but were not limited to, restaurants, retail, activities and attractions, museums, transportation, and meeting and event services.
  • Excluded businesses included any type of accommodation, airline or cruise line.
  • Current or former Members of the San Diego Tourism Authority (and all affiliated organizations) were not eligible.

A diverse panel reviewed the applications while also considering the viability of the business model, business needs and commitment to community service as part of the selection process.

For more information, visit: Details on applying for the next round will be available early next year.





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