San Diego is globally recognized for its laid-back vibes and friendly spirit. In continuing to build upon the destination's welcoming nature, the San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA) launched an innovative program in 2022 designed to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the local tourism industry. 

The new Tourism Accelerator Program — a first in the tourism industry — provides a host of resources and services for businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans, and those in the LGTBQ+ community. We set out to create an inclusive tourism industry that reflects the diversity of San Diego's population and better serves the region's residents while continuing to make it more welcoming for visitors.

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With the financial support of co-sponsors Bank of America and San Diego Gas & Electric and spearheaded by SDTA's President and CEO, Julie Coker, and me, the SDTA and a diverse panel of business and local leaders reviewed a pool of 50 applications and selected 10 businesses to participate in SDTA's first-ever accelerator program. 

These chosen businesses received 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
  • Access to business resources from experts in finance, real estate, legal, and risk management
  • $500 voucher for a course through UC San Diego Extension
  • A $1,000 credit to use on SDTA’s digital advertising platforms
  • Free quarter-page ad in the San Diego Business Journal for those businesses that are not already advertisers

The cohort met regularly during the course of the first year for training and networking with the program’s sponsors and partners.

Accelerator Program Selection Criteria

The selection process considered many factors, including the viability of the business model, business needs, and its commitment to community service.

The selection criteria include:

  • Applicants must be people of color, LGBTQ+, women- or veteran-owned tourism and hospitality businesses based in the San Diego region
  • Organizations must have operated for at least one year to qualify
  • Business categories may be but are not limited to restaurants, retail, activities and attractions, museums, transportation, and meeting and event services
  • Excluded businesses: Any type of accommodation, airline, or cruise line
  • Current or former Members of the San Diego Tourism Authority (and all affiliated organizations) are not eligible

Inaugural Accelerator Program Cohorts

To support local businesses, create leadership opportunities, and add to San Diego's vibrant culture, the panel picked various experiences and companies. 

The inaugural participants of our Tourism Accelerator included:

Following the tremendous success of last year and positive feedback, the SDTA is excited to announce that the application process for the 2023 Tourism Accelerator Program will open soon. SDTA is also thrilled and honored to have several other DMOs inquire more about the program with the intent to adapt it to their destination. 

By promoting and growing diversity among the businesses in our destinations, the Tourism Accelerator Program ensures that the local tourism recovery is equitable for everyone, both residents and visitors.

For more information about SDTA's Tourism Accelerator Program, download the deck from Simpleview Summit's 2022 session "REV UP: A New Idea to Accelerate Your DEI Efforts" or visit

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