By Eliot Stone, THC Heritage Tourism Specialist
The THC’s Heritage Tourism Program successfully launched its first heritage tourism workshops in Laredo and Rio Grande City in late August. The workshops brought together cultural leaders, business owners, city officials, and other interested residents of Laredo and Rio Grande City to identify and develop untapped heritage tourism resources in each city.
Prior to the start of the workshops, THC staff and city officials conducted a thorough assessment of heritage tourism resources in both cities. Workshop leaders then presented the inventory of resources to attendees to further familiarize residents with their city’s potential attractions and to elicit new visions for heritage tourism development. In both cities, residents responded to the inventoried resources with excitement and an outpouring of creative ideas.
During the workshops, local performers showcased cultural experiences that might be unique to visiting tourists. In Laredo, participants learned or practiced Cumbia (a popular Mexican dance style), while in Rio Grande City, attendees played a form of Bingo called Lotteria that’s popular along the Texas border. These experiences allowed workshop attendees to see their own cultures from a traveler’s perspective, enriching local pride and stimulating ideas for developing innovative heritage tourism products.
A pilot program of the Heritage Tourism Program, the workshops will occur monthly in Laredo and Rio Grande City, leading to a rollout event in January 2015. The rollout will showcase new heritage tourism products developed during the workshops to local residents and representatives of other Texas cities interested in enhancing their heritage tourism efforts.
The workshop series also gives communities the opportunity to highlight local heritage tourism attractions related to Texas’ rich Hispanic heritage, the focus of a new cultural-heritage travel guide and mobile app the THC will release in spring 2015.