I encourage you to do a little experiment. Go to our trusted Google, search ” travel ” and click on images. Notice anything? See a certain commonality? No. People. Of. Color. Anywhere. Sadly, in 2017, this is the reality and because of this, about 2 years ago, a crop of niche online communities started to rise.
Largely seen on Instagram, their feeds regularly posted carefully art directed, color rich, make-you-want-to-pack-your-bags-right now images featuring African American travelers in almost every corner of the world you can imagine. Travel Noire, Nomadness Travel Tribe, Tastemakers Africa, Black Travel Hackers and a host of others gave meaning and credibility to what’s known as the black travel movement and it’s shown no signs of slowing down.
While these groups are not solely comprised of African Americans, it can be said that the majority of their members are people of color. Why is that? Why the need for niche travel groups?
Reasons for this span from the simple to more complicated; from recent trends to systematic disparities for African Americans during the Civil Rights era. And in case you’re unfamiliar, let’s do a brief lesson on the need for this movement.
Starting simply, the travel market is estimated at $1.2 trillion globally and while African Americans and Hispanics annually contribute $48 and $56 billion respectively, there is still a lack of notable representation of people of color in travel marketing and communications.
In fact, according to Nielsen, on 2.6% of media advertising is geared toward African Americans. Only TWO. POINT. SIX. PERCENT! Let that sink for a minute…I’ll wait.
In the travel world, there is a longstanding stereotype that people of color do not travel and if they do, it’s only to places in the domestic south or Caribbean. This belief permeates in major hospitality and travel companies and therefore do not fully represent people of color beyond the token, thinking simply placing one brown person in the mix checks the box on diversity.
Representation in media allows people to imagine and manifest possibility; that they too can have what has seemed out of reach, thus, sites like Travel Noire, Black and Abroad, and Nomadness Travel Tribe were born to give inspiration and show the market, “We out Here” in the words of Nomadness Travel Tribe founder, Evita Robinson.
The idea African Americans don’t travel stems from very real experiences dating back to the pre-Civil Rights era. First, slavery and Jim Crow left African Americans with significant disparities in income providing little to spend beyond life’s necessities, like leisure activities.
Second, when African Americans did find themselves on the road, often times conditions were subpar in terms of service and accommodations due to segregation. To combat this, The Negro Travelers Green Book, published from 1936 to 1964 served purpose in providing African Americans with valuable and likely life saving tips while traveling in the US.
The guide would feature listings of restaurants, lodging, and places regarded as safe and would provide service to African Americans. It could be said that modern black travel communities are the new versions of The Negro Travelers Green Book with an added layer of pride, inspiration and an international view.
The Black Travel Movement offers a sense of community, the ability to connect with individuals who prioritize travel, and make exploring parts of the world that seemed like a far-fetched dream, a reality.
But more importantly, these travel groups are contributing to something bigger; these groups are helping to show the realities of African Americans beyond the often narrow and miniscule representation in mainstream media. #LiveYourBestLife
Ola Abayomi is a blogger living in New York City. In 2015, she was lucky enough to spend 3 glorious months backpacking through Southeast Asia. That sabbatical inspired her blog Out of Office: Gone Living. Follow Ola’s adventures on IG @ola_ola_ayy.