Hit The Open Road: The Benefits Of African American Travel

January 6, 2014  |  

Black travel is on the upswing. According to analysts at marketing firm MMGY Global black travel has rebounded since 2008, despite the fact that the recession doubled the gap between black and white wealth. Seventeen percent of African Americans take one or more international trips a year and spend $48 billion on travel in the United States alone, according to the Mandala Research firm, writes Farai Chideya in the New York Times.

Still even with all this buying power, major hospitality companies and tour operators fail to target African Americans.

As a result, minority travelers are left to guide themselves for the most part with few guidebooks or tour operators serving the market specifically. Published from 1936 to 1964, postal worker named Victor H. Green launched The Negro Traveler’s Green Book during segregation to give black travelers a list of places where it was safe to stop. Things have changed a great deal since then, and many African-Americans say they find freedom in traveling.

Elaine Lee, who runs the site Ugogurl.com and is editor of the anthology “Go Girl: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure, told The Times,  “The biggest surprise about traveling internationally was to discover that in many parts of the world, it is an asset to be a black woman, unlike in North America, where it is often a liability. Travel to Africa is among the most healing of all. You go there and get part of your soul back.”

One interesting quirk for African-American travelers highlighted in the Times article is that often they can blend in. When in India, one source for the story talks about being able to go to places that are normally cut off for tourists because he blends into the population. This isn’t to say their isn’t prejudice abroad. The US State Department issued an advisory about Greece warning that “there has been a rise in unprovoked harassment and violent attacks against persons who, because of their complexion, are perceived to be foreign migrants. U.S. citizens most at risk are those of African, Asian, Hispanic, or Middle Eastern descent.”

But even with these issues, we’re seeing more discussion among African Americans about travel, not only in this NYT article, but in this story we recently published here.

According to Mandala, African Americans are most likely to travel to Florida and Georgia and are more apt (along with Latinos) to visit cultural and historic attractions. Also, group travel is twice as popular with African-Americans than whites, according to Charlie Presley, the founder of the African-American Travel Conference.

There are various clubs that help drive black tourism, such as  the National Black Ski Association. During their weeklong summits, N.B.S. members typically boost local economies by about $3 million.

What are your travel goals for 2014?

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