The Black travel movement has grown to unprecedented numbers over the last decade. The movement, mainly powered by Black American millennials, encourages both domestic and international travel with a goal to experience different cultures. In a Mandala Research report, this demographic spent $63 billion on travel in 2018, up from $43 billion in 2010. Further, Black Americans are not only the fastest-growing traveler demographic in the industry according to the United States Travel Association (USTA), but they are also setting the top travel trends of 2020. These include cultural and heritage-based offerings, relaxation and unplugging methods, and culinary experiences.
Greater access to education, higher income levels, the power of social media, and the popularity of Black travel groups are significant factors that have contributed to the increase of Black travelers over the years. Generally, Black travel groups and companies curate experiences for travelers to meet as strangers in foreign lands taking part in meals, activities, and local cultural elements while building community with each other. Black group travel has become a great option for those who don’t want to explore new places alone or who don’t want to be responsible for planning a trip. Plus, traveling with people who look like you and share common interests can offer a feeling of emotional safety that may not be as accessible in spaces where you are the minority.
With the COVID-19 crisis halting all industries including travel, those seeking adventure must conceptualize unique ways to explore safely. Black travel influencers have taken to the streets to bring back the ultimate American past time: the road trip. Jeff Jenkins of the Chubby Diaries is sharing his travel experiences on Instagram while visiting the seventeen states he’s yet to visit in America. Jenkins has shared his experience visiting national parks in the U.S. for the first time including Mount Rushmore, where he offered a mini history lesson on its racist history.
Jenkins is not the only adventurer who has taken to the open road. Jessica Nabongo, the first Black woman to travel to every country in the world and voice behind The Catch Me if You Can blog, is traversing the New England area by car and documenting her discoveries along the way. She’s making Martha’s Vineyard look like the ultimate place to be while also hitting up Maine and Vermont.
If Black Twitter is any indication, the travel industry will not know what hit it when safety restrictions are lifted.
I act like everything is okay but deep down I wanna book a one way flight to foreign country and live my very best life ???????????
— Ciara Johnson (@hey_ciara) August 5, 2020
Not only are Black people looking for their next big vacation, some are considering permanently living abroad to escape the injustices attached to systemic oppression of Black people in America. Some have even left in the midst of COVID-19 to find a better quality of life in countries like the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
Though no official numbers have been released on Black millennial travel spending during the pandemic, it’s safe to say that it will exceed all expectations when borders reopen. Tourism boards and the travel industry at large must work to include the experiences of Black travelers if they hope to reap the revenue-based benefits of the Black travel movement.
Renée Cherez is a Black woman writer creating content at the intersections of travel, race, and identity. She feels most at home in airports and is passionate about all things astrology, social justice, and the existence of Black mermaids. You can find her on Instagram at @reneecherez.