Group Seeks to Put Minority Locations on Tourism Map

The U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration is scheduled to hold a three-day convention starting Thursday on ways to boost tourism and business in minority communities.

Organizers said the Multicultural Tourism Development Conference at the Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Ave., is the first such meeting to cover minority-related issues in tourism on a national basis.

"We're hoping to encourage tourism development in multicultural enclaves throughout the U.S.," said Linda Harbaugh, senior policy analyst for the tourism administration. "People who return to the U.S. for visits--they want to do something different. They've already gone to New York, Disney World."

In addition to promoting ethnic communities to tourists, Harbaugh said, the conference will also encourage minorities living in those neighborhoods to open their own travel businesses.

"It's one of the goals of this administration, to assist minorities in business development," Harbaugh said.

Federal officials have already initiated some assistance in the Downtown area through the Minority Enterprise Growth Assistance Center, which offers free first-time business consultations to minorities.

The center's tourism and development manager, Isabel Rodriguez, said this week's conference is timely in light of Los Angeles County's recent disasters and the riots two years ago.

Between 1991 and 1993, for example, the number of tourists dropped 2%, from 25.31 million to 24.85 million, according to the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Tours in ethnic communities--such as to the Mercado in East Los Angeles or a bilingual arts theater in Lincoln Heights--could open a new market in travel, Rodriguez said.

"What we have to do is to dispel this myth that going into communities is dangerous," she said. "Our communities are very safe. They're there waiting with open arms to show off what they have."

The Multicultural Tourism Development Conference begins Thursday and ends Saturday. Registration is $325. Information: (213) 895-0224.

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