Many travelers have put a new focus on spending their money with Black-owned hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Thankfully, innovative tools and services are making it easier than ever.

By Kimberly Wilson
July 18, 2021
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Abstract illustration with the concept of supporting Black-owned travel businesses
Credit: Illustration by Neil Webb

"We are all finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel," says Shari Munroe. The entrepreneur founded Aristo Kat Tours with her father, Garfield Munroe, and today the company runs catamaran tours around Montego Bay and Negril, Jamaica. "We're proud to be one of the few Black-owned tourism entities in the country," Shari says, "but our continued survival depends on the strong support of visitors."

To that end, the Munroes have partnered with GetMyBoat, an online platform for charter adventures that helps Aristo Kat reach a wider audience. "They've helped us tremendously," Shari says. "These days, about twenty percent of our bookings come through GetMyBoat."

Listing on a major digital platform is just one way Black-owned businesses are reaching new markets. Broadening their reach could be critical: the pandemic has had an outsize impact on Black entrepreneurs. An average of two out of every five Black-owned firms in the U.S. were forced to close in the spring of 2020, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research — more than twice the rate seen by white-owned companies.

The good news is, travelers are keen to make the impact of their dollars more meaningful. Google says searches for "Black-owned businesses" surged sixfold last year. To help meet the demand, the Web giant has added new search filters and badges denoting businesses whose owners self-identify as Black. Yelp has introduced a similar search tool. Meanwhile, American Express has an interactive map of Black-owned businesses through its Shop Small initiative.

Consumers can also call on travel advisors and home-rental firms to make sure their trips benefit communities of color. Getaway Society, for instance, is a vacation-rental company with properties in destinations such as Hilton Head, South Carolina; Orlando; and Virginia Beach. The company's cofounder, Carrington M. Carter, makes a point of working with other Black entrepreneurs. "When you spend money with a Black-owned business like ours, you're also supporting an ecosystem that benefits the entire Black community," Carter says. "Property managers, private chefs, interior designers, the list goes on. That has a multiplier effect."

Other experts are sharing their finds online. Ashlee Tuck is a cocktail writer in Baltimore who chronicles Black-owned restaurants and spirit brands on her site Will Drink for Travel. "As a Black traveler, it was only natural for me to amplify these businesses," Tuck says. She has written about more than 100 Black-owned restaurants in her hometown, plus favorites in locations ranging from Chicago to Martha's Vineyard. "When our communities are supported, jobs and opportunities are created."

A version of this story first appeared in the July 2021 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline Making a Difference, Made Easier.