Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel (BEST)
Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel (BEST), an initiative of The Conference Board, with the support of the New York Community Trust and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is spearheading a citywide project to promote community tourism in New York neighborhoods beyond the popular tourist attractions of mid-town Manhattan.
Known as Promoting Community Tourism in New York City, the goal of this project is to assist community-based, nonprofit institutions to develop tourism enterprises that strengthen their communities both economically and socially, while preserving their cultural and natural assets for the benefit of future generations.Community tourism aims to encourage tourism in ways that 1) maximize dollars coming into the community; 2) build civic pride in the area and respect for the neighborhood among others; and 3) respect the environmental integrity of the neighborhood.
Such efforts are beginning to sprout up throughout the world as more and more people travel and enjoy new experiences. In Paris, for instance, Hotel Meurice has begun to offer walking tours of its own historic backyard. The Waikiki Association in Honolulu is trying to develop ways to bring back cultural tourism to its community, knowing that without it the hotels of Waikiki are no different than any other hotels on large beaches.The Promoting Community Tourism in New York City project seeks to help mostly lower-income, ethnic communities capitalize on the assets of their “off-the-beaten-path” neighborhoods by encouraging walking tours and other activities. Many of these neighborhoods are rich in culture and history; the churches of Brooklyn, the music of the Bronx, the brownstones of Harlem, the ethnic diversity of Queens, and the history of Staten Island, are the most obvious examples. But there are also areas where the arts are lively, history is preserved, and the cultures that make NYC one of the great cities of the world are visible and thriving.Though many NYC companies offer walking tours of historic Manhattan neighborhoods, they aren’t truly community-based. However, with help from this initiative, several communities and non-profit organizations have already developed unique community-based, sustainable tours within their own neighborhoods.
- The Point Community Development Center provides tours of the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx including its own dynamic performing and visual arts center, where visitors can enjoy authentic Latino music.
- The Mt. Morris Park Community Improvement Association in Harlem is inaugurating walking tours this summer to heighten awareness of the neighborhood’s rich history and heritage.
- The Lower East Side Tenement Museum provides walking tours highlighting both past and present immigration experiences.
- Cultural Collaborative Jamaica currently provides occasional walking tours of their culturally and historically rich African-American neighborhood in Queens.
- On Staten Island, historic Richmond Town offers tours of a living museum of a historic New York settlement.
- The Fort Greene Association in Brooklyn will be offering walking tours of its historic district.
Gretchen Dykstra, the founding president of the Times Square Business Improvement District (BID) and the project’s lead consultant, comments, “These neighborhoods offer unique attractions worthy of tourists’ attention, or a visit by native New Yorkers. They complement New York’s world-famous sites by offering insights into the diverse lives and history of the ordinary people whose contributions have built this enthralling city.”Michael Seltzer, the Director of BEST, adds, “Community tourism can enhance the quality of life in some of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods, aid them in preserving their culture and heritage, and further their own economic development. The project will also yield valuable insights for other urban communities worldwide that seek to use tourism to generate new revenues and civic pride.”
Such attractions can provide needed employment, stimulate community economic development efforts, and instill pride among local residents. Imagine a local resident, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, bringing 20 outsiders into a lively record store to talk with a local celebrity who sang with famous Puerto Rican bands and then to buy CDs that the proprietor recommends?
The economic benefit goes to the host institution that organized and sold the tour for its ongoing work in the community, the local guide who’s paid from the proceeds of the tour, and the music store, that receives 20 more customers. And on that particular day imagine if one of the visitors then recommends the music storeowner for recognition by a well-known preservation organization that brings citywide attention to him and his store.
The tour will have enhanced the civic pride among the community, bolstered the self-esteem of the tour guide, celebrated the local cultural heritage, and increased awareness among the visitors for the cultural richness of community and its inherent value…as the dollars earned stay in the neighborhood.
sustainabletravel.orgFOR MORE INFORMATION
- tenement.org >
Neighborhood Heritage Tour
Length: One hour
Time: Saturday and Sunday: 1:00 and 2:30 PM.
Adults: $ 9.00
Students & Seniors: $ 7.00
Walking tours are $15 a person, van/bus tours (“Mambo to Hip-hop tour”) are $35/person. The latter includes a meal of Latin American or Soul Food from South Bronx’s own Pat’s Kitchen, as well as a performance. The Point has a van, minimum of 12 people. Parties supplying their own vehicle are eligible for discounted rates. Tours are on Saturdays. Typically tours depart at 3PM but the times are negotiable upon request.
- historicrichmondtown.org >
The “Living History” tour includes costumed tour guides throughout the visited houses and a few other special events during this time period.
Established in 1970, the Fort Greene Association undertakes several initiatives geared toward promoting the historical and community richness of the Brooklyn Neighborhood.
Walking tours are generally offered from the June — September period of the year. Always on Saturdays, generally 10:30 or Noon There are 3 tours: one is a historical look at the King Manor Museum, a truly gigantic house that was once the residence of Rufus King, a lesser-known but important figure in early American history. Another is a neighborhood tour of Jamaica, offering a less-in-depth tour of the King Manor, along with other historic sites which give downtown Jamaica a distinct cultural flavor. A geological tour discussing the glacial terrain is also offered. Tours are free but require donation. Call CCJ for calendar.
Walking tours are $ 20. They depart Saturdays beginning June 30 thru September (excluding July 1 and September 1) at 10AM. The tour is approximately 3 hrs and is a walking tour of the historic Mt. Morris neighborhood.
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