A few weeks ago, I attended my first New York Times Travel Show. While the show lasts all weekend, I attended on Friday which is known as Industry Day. It’s a chance for Travel Editors, Bloggers, Travel Agents and other travel professionals to meet with tourism representatives about the business side of travel.
Attending the conference was also a great chance to connect with fellow travel bloggers that I only knew through social media, as well as other tourism professionals from around the world. I enjoyed the creative presentations of each country and hope to one day visit each one (seriously…call me!). However, one thing that was overwhelmingly obvious was that there were way less people present that looked like me than not.
Of course, some island countries were present at the Travel Show and most were represented by people of color for obvious reasons. However, many European countries were not (also for obvious reasons) and honestly, I did not receive the warmest of welcomes by some of them when I requested to learn more information about their destination.
I’m not going to name specific countries, but there was definitely more than one that gave me the cold shoulder. I was a little taken back by how off-putting some representatives were. But here’s the thing they need to realize: Black people travel to more places than just the Caribbean! This is no diss against the Caribbean. Believe me, the islands love me and I love them right back. But my interests are diverse and my choice in vacation destinations reflect that. According to research by the Mandala Research Firm:
- 17% of African Americans take one or more international trips a year;
- African Americans spend $48 billion on travel in the United States alone.
Did you read the stats above closely? Black people spent $48 BILLION on travel in the United States alone! That means that if we’re traveling in United States, we are also willing to travel to other places around the world. Tourism Boards and traveling professionals should begin marketing to us because it’s far too big a market to neglect.
I’m sure I could write an entire dissertation about the Diaspora and the downright disdain for people of color around the world. It’s clear that not many Blacks travel to far off places often. In fact, when I was in Istanbul, my friends and I were stared at and secretly photographed by people who had never seen Black people before. I don’t think they meant us any harm but maybe, just maybe, if people of color traveled to countries where we are not native, when natives do see us, it won’t be that big a shock to them.
But that begs me to ask…are people of color not going to these places because they’re not interested, or because we’re not being marketed to? I’d argue the latter. Over the holidays when travel deals to Iceland and Abu Dhabi popped up, thousands of Black travelers – including tons of my friends – hopped on board. Why? Because of availability, affordability and most importantly, curiosity and willingness to explore new places.
Whether you like it or not, Black Americans are traveling internationally more than ever. Next time you meet another Blogger or Travel Agent of color interested in working with you at a travel show, via an email introduction or on the street, be a little more open in sharing information about your destination. Our audiences are interested in visiting your country too…and let’s face it, the only color that really matters is green.