City business groups, including the region's Hispanic chamber of commerce, have embarked on a campaign to attract more tourists from Latin America to the nation's capital and then bring them to Hispanic-owned shops, restaurants and other businesses in the District.
About 5,000 copies of a new Spanish-language tourist map and brochure have been published and made available at the D.C. Visitor Information Center and various hotels. In addition, www.washingtonusa.org, a World Wide Web site describing the city in Spanish, is under construction, and a full-color, 170-page Spanish guidebook to Washington is scheduled to be unveiled later this month.
"We wanted to make sure that once travelers from Latin America arrived, they felt very welcome and could take advantage of all the Hispanic businesses in the area," said Sue Porter, director of tourism for the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. "We're trying to highlight places of special interest and let people know that Washington has a strong Hispanic community. We want people to experience Washington in different ways--not just the monuments and memorials."
Of the more than 20 million people who visit Washington every year, nearly 2 million are international travelers. Of those, about 220,000 are from Latin America or Spain. Local business leaders say that's much smaller than the number who visit Miami, Houston or New York, and they hope to highlight Washington's multicultural community to close the gap.
"It's a growing market, and that's where the future is. We're seeing more and more travelers from Latin America, and other parts of the world are not seeing this kind of growth," said Mike Pina, a spokesman for the Travel Industry Association. "If Washington offers something to these travelers and the air service is good, it's going to do well."
District tourism groups have published other Spanish-language maps and brochures in the past, but most have been simple translations of English ones. The new pamphlet, titled "Un Tesoro Internacional," or "An International Treasure," was designed specifically for Latin American and Spanish tourists.
It features a list of D.C. restaurants that specialize in Latin American cuisine, travel agencies, nightclubs and other businesses. The colorful brochure also highlights Adams-Morgan and various community institutions in the neighborhood, as well as the Art Museum of the Organization of American States and the locations of statues of historical figures in Latin American history that are scattered around the city.
"We tried to let visitors know that Washington is more than just the Mall, the Capitol and the White House. It's a rich, vibrant town and, yes, Latinos live here," said Luis Vasquez-Ajmac, president of Maya Advertising and Communications, the firm that designed the brochure. "We wanted to drive some of the millions of tourism dollars into the hands of the Hispanic folks who live around Washington, D.C."
Evan Reynolds, concierge at Washington's Hotel Sofitel, said he has requested 125 copies of the brochure. "I think it's a great idea," he said. "Right now, I have a multilingual guide in eight or nine languages, but I think this would be much more helpful because it's geared specifically to Spanish speakers."
The brochure was partially funded by the Greater Washington Ibero American Chamber of Commerce, which in turn is receiving money from the Washington Convention Center for a $1 million, five-year campaign to attract tourists and commerce from Latin America and Spain to the District.
"We knew there has been a growth of visitors from Latin America, but they're going to other cities. Not many are coming here," said Juan Albert, the group's vice president. "What we found after talking to tour operators and others is that there's just not a lot they know about Washington. They see it on the news, but as far as information on D.C. as a city, they knew very little."
The campaign is focusing on the countries in Latin America that send the most visitors to the United States: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico. Albert said he and others have been traveling to Latin America to promote Washington among travel agencies and at trade fairs.
In addition, he said, the group is trying to "bring in commerce and people interested in coming to D.C. and investing some money."
Albert said the Spanish-language guidebook is the first of its kind for Washington and will go on sale for about $9 next year. It includes everything one might expect: color photographs, maps, sections on Washington's history, excerpts from presidential speeches--all in Spanish. For example, the quotations engraved at various memorials have been translated into Spanish.
Although the campaign is targeted at international travelers, Albert and others said they expect Spanish-speaking tourists from elsewhere in the United States to take advantage of the new products as well.
"We're already getting requests for the brochure from U.S. Hispanic groups meeting in Washington," Vasquez-Ajmac said. "The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is bringing 4,000 to D.C., and they asked for the brochure. The National Cuban Council is coming to Washington, and they're interested, too. What we're noticing is that there's so little out there, people are interested in what we have."
CAPTION: About 5,000 copies of a Spanish-language brochure have been made.