This Is the Future of Black Travel, According to Industry Leaders

What Black travelers are looking for — from hotels, tour operators, and destinations — and how that's shaping the travel industry.

Maryanne Loum and Jnane Tamsna with Danny Rivers Mitchell of Black Girls Travel Too on a swing. This is a photo collage

Photo Illustrations: Travel + Leisure (Images: Nikmatic, Courtesy of Jnane Tamsna, Courtesy of Danny Rivers Mitchell)

The future of Black tourism is expansion. Black travelers seek destinations and activities that are in line with their cultural and personal interests. And we are looking for ways to support communities and businesses run by people of color. 

Some experts in the travel sector predict this trend will lead to an increase in the emergence of Black-owned travel companies, as well as the creation of new travel experiences targeted at this ever-growing group of tourists. Further, the rise of social media that makes it easier to connect with other Black people who are traveling and the surge in resources offering information about destinations and activities that are welcoming to Black travelers are likely to make Black travel even more visible in the coming years.

I spoke with four travel industry leaders who predict shifts among tour operators, hotels, and destinations, to grow their appeal among Black travelers.

Visit Philadelphia's events Black Film Festical and Juneteenth Festival

Photo Illustrations: Travel + Leisure (Images: Courtesy of Visit Philadelphia)

According to the President and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, Angela Val, Black travel in 2023 and beyond will continue to focus more on personal interests among Black travelers. 

“As we rebound from COVID-related travel restrictions, we know there’s massive pent-up travel demand," Val says. "We expect that 2023 will be the year that many travelers take those big trips they’ve been dreaming about. However, we also understand that one big trip a year doesn’t scratch that travel itch. So, we expect many travelers to also take advantage of long weekends away."

Visit Philadelphia is prioritizing events and marketing efforts aimed at attracting Black travelers, including year-round events and festivals like Philadelphia’s Juneteenth Parade and Festival, Roots Picnic, BlackStar Film Festival, Odunde, Polo Classic, and Philly Fashion Week

"At Visit Philadelphia, we believe that the Black travel experience will be focused on finding destinations where visitors are able to create custom leisure tourism experiences that can be tailored to their areas of interest — whether that be arts and culture, history, culinary experiences, etc," Val continues. “We also have our Philadelphia Black Greek Edition marketing program that encourages more than 2 million members of the Divine Nine fraternity and sororities to experience the region’s history, culture, food, and fun.”

Cultural experiences are one of the most important motivators for Black travelers booking trips. Founder and CEO Danny Rivers Mitchell created “Black Girls Travel Too” to satisfy that demand. She's particularly keen on highlighting voluntourism on the trips she curates.

Voluntourism woman with pain tray and a group doing meal prep in Barbados with Black Girls Travel Too

Photo Illustrations: Travel + Leisure (Images: Courtesy of Black Girls Travel Too)

“The Black community is learning that travel is a necessary part of self-care, finding and fueling one’s purpose, self-discovery, service, and so much more," Rivers-Mitchell says. "We as a community are finally breaking barriers and challenging the status quo when it comes to what travel looks like for us. Voluntourism is changing what the face of service looks like — it’s making service attractive. It’s no longer about what we can do for ourselves, but what we can do for all Black communities if we didn’t limit where we served or the impact that we could create,”  

Voluntourism is bridging the gap between travelers and underserved communities, while also veering away from simply going to a destination to find all the Instagrammable spots. Inspiring individuals with a desire to make a difference and improve the lives of people all over the world, voluntourism might include time on vacation spent volunteering at an orphanage, working with grassroots organizations to build wells or homes, or helping at local schools.

Rivers-Mitchell found that the voluntourism came from her own personal mission to do something greater whenever she got to a destination. And she found that her clients really gravitate toward these opportunities.

“For us, often, we’re traveling with women who are seasoned in their careers, they’re married, they’re educated, or they’ve done everything that society tells them they’re supposed to do to be ‘successful,’ but they're looking for more," Rivers-Mitchell says. "This led to us taking one day out of our traditional Black Girls Travel Too experiences to give back to an overlooked and underserved community ... I could hear these women articulate how necessary and nourishing that hour or two of serving alongside locals was.”

Besides cultural experiences and service-driven travel, the future of Black travel also looks like BIPOC hotel, motel, and hostel ownership. There’s an influx of investors and entrepreneurs who are investing in ensuring that Black travelers have safe places to dwell once they get to a destination. Sheila C. Johnson, who co-founded BET, owns Salamander Hotels and Resorts. Loum Martin owns the boutique hotel Jnane Tamsna in Morocco, and Erik and Rhonda Albert own The Oaks Bluff Inn in Martha's Vineyard. And Black hotel ownership is increasing by the year.

Sheila Johnson and Salamander Resort property with Marryanne Loum Martin and Jnane Tamsna property

Photo Illustrations: Travel + Leisure (Images:

Black hotel ownership is an important step toward addressing the underrepresentation and lack of economic opportunities for Black people in the travel and hospitality industry. General Manager Donte P. Johnson of Hotel Revival in Baltimore, Maryland understands the inner workings of the hospitality sector of travel and the importance of emerging programs that boost Black ownership. 

“What’s really exciting is to see that Black millennials are playing the game differently. For example, people like Davonne Reaves with her Vesterr platforms and Kendra Plummer at Elise Capital are crowdfunding and syndicating hotel deals in addition to educating the masses on how to get into ownership at incredibly approachable investment levels," Johnson says. "Damon Lawrence Jr., founder of Homage Hospitality and The Unflagged Academy, created a brand that centered the culture in a way that I’ve personally never seen elsewhere and now he’s launched courses to teach people how to do the same (without having to work through big brand dynamics). The culture is democratizing ownership through access and education.”

Jason Bass with his son, Donte P. Johnson, Davonne Reaves and Kendra Plummer
From Left to Right: Jason Bass with his son, Donte P. Johnson, Davonne Reaves and Kendra Plummer.

Photo Illustrations: Travel + Leisure (Images: Ryan Rhodes, Courtesy of Davonne Reaves and Kendra Plummer)

Increased Black hotel ownership also means creating more opportunities for marginalized communities, and according to Hotel Revival’s director of culture and impact, Jason Bass, this is crucial to the future of Black travel.

“Representation in leadership and positions of ownership creates a shorter distance in understanding local needs and industry opportunities for businesses owned and led by people of color," Bass says. "It’s easier for us to appreciate the nuanced experiences of one another in America. In some ways, since Black hotel ownership representation is still very new, traditional industry practices are less likely to be present. Therefore, we are more likely to benefit from cross utilization of past work experiences or transferable knowledge from adjacent industries. More Black ownership will drive the removal of cultural obstacles and increase willingness to support people who look like us in the industry.”

Overall, the future of Black travel as an industry looks brighter than ever, because there are more people in important positions who care about our spending power and its impact. Further, seeing Black travelers in different places has helped increase representation and change the narrative about who travels and where. And finally, companies are responding to what Black travelers want to see from tour operators, hotels, destinations, and cruise lines: opportunities to give back to surrounding communities, safety and security, having Black executive leadership and ownership, and cultural experiences that aren’t looking to readily co-opt Black culture but highlight, respect, and appreciate who we are as a people.

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