Editor’s Letter: Travel is a business

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  • Published on September 1, 2022
  • Last Updated March 10, 2023
  • In Guest Writers

DETOUR’s editor in chief Dawn Booker reflects on the big business that is Black travel.

Travel is a business.

At DETOUR, it is our primary mission to tell the stories of journeying and discovering through the eyes and perspective of Black travelers. We have an equally important mission to highlight the value of the Black consumer and the economic impact of Black travelers worldwide.

In September, the nation celebrates Labor Day to acknowledge Americans’ hard work and labor. During this month, DETOUR will examine travel as a business by telling stories of entrepreneurs, innovators, alliances and policymakers who work tirelessly to ensure that the Black consumer’s spending power translates to real power and more significant inclusion in the travel industry.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the global authority on the economic and social contribution of Travel and Tourism, the industry experienced a 50.4% decline and a loss of almost $4.9 trillion in 2020. Further, during the pandemic’s peak, 62 million jobs were lost while domestic visitor spending decreased by nearly 50% and visitor spending decreased by 70%.

Sharing these abysmal statistics may sound like a bleak lead to highlighting the economic impacts and opportunities in the travel and tourism industry. However, the economic realities and uncertainties around the future of travel in 2020 caused the industry to look beyond traditional marketing efforts and priorities to seek new opportunities to engage previously untapped and underserved consumers and the workforce.

At least two organizations recognized this renewed interest in recovering the revenue and market share lost during the pandemic could be a massive opportunity for Black travel and tourism professionals. In many ways, these organizations are responsible for the relatively new and intensified interest in the Black travel market.

The Black Travel Alliance

The Black Travel Alliance (BTA), established in 2020 by a group of Black travel journalists and content creators, BTA focuses on action, policy, and accountability within the travel industry. BTA emphasizes “receipts,” demanding that travel brands back up DEI statements with data on employment, marketing, and philanthropy efforts.

Understanding the importance of Black traveler research and data, the BTA partnered with MMGY Global, the world’s leading integrated marketing company specializing in the y travel, tourism and hospitality industries. The Black Traveler: Insights, Opportunities and Priorities study provides comprehensive and meaningful research data on the Black traveler’s travel habits, spending and the overall economic impact of the Black traveler. Thanks to this research, we now know that 458.2 million U.S. Black leisure traveler stays represented a $109.4 Billion expenditure by Black travelers in 2021

National Blacks in Travel and Tourism Collaborative

Also established in 2020, according to its mission statement, Blacks in Travel and Tourism Collaborative’s (BTT) mission is to ensure Black travel and tourism businesses are full participants in the travel and tourism industry. BTT works with destination management offices (DMO), tourism boards, media companies and other associations to develop sustainable working relationships with Black businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators. In addition to encouraging equity in the business, BTT is also working with local destinations to create regional tourism experiences that engage the local community.

Collective action and individual impact

The collective action taken by both organizations will have a lasting impact on a more inclusive and receptive travel landscape. What’s fascinating about this most recent Black Renaissance in the travel industry is that many Black entrepreneurs and innovators have been able to make a living and a name for themselves as pioneers in the Black Travel Movement. These insightful visionaries elevated our images and experiences because they knew the value of the Black traveler. Because of Black travel entrepreneurs, including Ernest White ( FlyBrother ), Evita Robinson (Nomadness Travel Tribe) and Dianelle Rivers-Mitchell (Black Girls Travel Too), when the mainstream travel market was ready to operate more inclusively, a motivated, knowledgeable Black consumer who is primed and willing to travel.

September is a great time to reflect on the economic impact of Black travel since many will re-convene for our first in-person HBCU homecomings, Classics, and other Fall Black travel rituals. For many cities, the revenue generated through these events is more significant than any other city-wide event.

Keep coming back throughout the month to discover the stories of entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership in Black travel.

Dawn S. Booker


DETOUR: Best Stories in Black Travel


This story was created by Detour, a journalism brand focused on the best stories in Black travel, in partnership with McClatchy’s The Charlotte Observer and Miami Herald. Detour’s approach to travel and storytelling seeks to tell previously under-reported or ignored narratives by shifting away from the customary routes framed in Eurocentrism. The detour team is made up of an A-list of award-winning journalists, writers, historians, photographers, illustrators and filmmakers.

This story was originally published September 01, 2022 9:00 AM.