One of my favourite things when I travel is to connect with local experts to get an insider’s view of the destination that I am traveling to. During my recent trip to Miami I did some research and located a real expert: David Brown,the Urban Tour Host,whose company offers cultural community and eco tours in the Miami area and specializes in sustainable community-based tourism that gives back to local communities.
On December 1,2010 we spent a great few hours together and started our explorations with a visit to Overtown,a historic African-American area of Miami.We stopped in at the Historic Mt.Zion Missionary Baptist Church and met with Pastor Ralph Ross.Little Haiti was our next stop where we visited the Little Haiti Cutural Centre.Our final tour stop was at the Kalbassi House,an artist’s cooperative that is also a local grassroots economic development initiative.Finally,David took me to the Downtown Miami Riverwalk,a waterfront promenade next to the Miami River that has become the annual venue of the Downtown Miami Riverwalk Festival,a local celebration that David has organized now for the third year.I definitely enjoyed my insider look at the multicultural communities of Miami.
David Brown shows off some local art,two colourful parrots
In this interview David gives us some insight into his special connection with Miami and his dedication to community-based tourism.
1.Please tell us about yourself and your background.Where did you grow up,what is your profession? Please tell us about your experience in education and community development.
I grew up in New Britain,Conn.I started my career teaching all the fun sciences at several very good private schools,in Connecticut and then in Miami. I then began working in the non-profit sector in 1994,specializing in providing services in non profit development and management.During this time I got to know the communities very well and built strong relationships in the same neighborhoods that I do my tours today.It was this combined background that gave me the insight to develop my community tour program,the Urban Tour Host featuring” Miami’s Cultural Community Tours and Eco-tours”.
David’s office is located right in downtown Miami,in the historic Ingraham Building
2.What brought you to Miami? What were your first impressions of Miami and how have they changed since you lived there?
I was brought here to Miami as a teacher of ecology and marine sciences at a very good private school. I really liked Miami because of its sub-tropical climate and cultural diversity.Things have changed a bit because of over-development,however,the city is working to make the built environment more pedestrian friendly.There have also been a lot of recent infrastructure improvements throughout Miami’s cultural communities and these have helped to facilitate the development of my community tourism program.
David Brown and Pastor Ralph Ross from the Historic Mt.Zion Missionary Baptist Church
3.How did you come up with the idea for creating “the Urban Tour Host”? How has your tour company evolved since the beginnings?
I wanted to be able to showcase our historic,urban,ethnic communities which have been left off the pathway of traditional tours of Miami.Because of my former work in community development,I wanted to provide economic opportunities and hope for the local businesses by implementing best practices in community-based tourism.As a result of this,I have more community partners,more local attractions within the community and a deeper knowledge of the communities themselves.The community looks forward to our tours and fully understands the connection between tourism and economic prosperity.
Huge colourful murals at the Little Haiti Cultural Center