Destination travel brands must commit to championing Black culture and achievements 365 days a year, beyond the 28 or 29 days of February Black History Month. When you speak to Black people about Black History Month, while it is a significant month of acknowledgment, our pride and history cannot be told in one month; we live every day making a difference and contributing to society.
The business case and economics about Black travelers are straightforward, according to MMGY’s 2019 Shifflet Travel Performance/Monitor, which surveyed 4,800 Black U.S. leisure travelers, as well as a 2020 survey of 200 members of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners.
According to the findings, Black Americans spent an estimated $109.4 billion on leisure travel in 2019, representing roughly 13.1% of the U.S. leisure travel market. (Black Americans spent an estimated $63 billion on leisure travel in 2018.) The findings show that in 2019, Black U.S. leisure travelers took an average of three overnight vacations with an average stay of 2.5 nights for each trip. They also reveal that the surveyed travel parties typically spent about $600 on each overnight stay.
To recognize Black History Month, destination travel brands need to go beyond ethnic marketing messages and obvious images of black people and colors from the Pan-African flag. Additionally, superficial acknowledgment or support for the Black Lives Matter movement offers little or no action. To authentically connect and build trust, brands must continually identify and engage with genuine opportunities to connect with the Black community.
Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” along with the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), first conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926, encompassing Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s birthdays.
The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial in the wake of the civil rights movement; the festival was expanded to a month after President Gerald R. Ford decreed a national observance.
Do not stop on March 1; representation year-round is a significant factor in reaching communities of color gaining their trust. Build authentic long-term connections within various communities and have conversations.
Like all travelers, Black travelers love exploring new destinations, relaxation, restaurants, fine dining, arts, cultural activities, attending family events and shopping (did I say shopping?). You may miss the opportunity to realistically connect with the Black traveler if you do not provide:
- Shopping in the Black community
- Amenities for Black Travelers
- Organizational resources and Black history materials promoting the Black community
- Programming, events and entertainment in the Black community
- Neighborhood and faith-based experiences in the Black community
The more loyalty and trustworthiness your brand shows a community, the more it will give it back. And the rule still stands: It is easier to retain a customer than build a new one.
Promote your destination diversity highlighting Black neighborhoods, businesses and social connections. Work with Black community leaders to introduce community partners and organizations supporting networking events, initiatives and programs.
As executive director of Tourism Diversity Matters, we take a collective impact approach to bring people together, in a structured way, to achieve success and impact diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the tourism industry.
As a collaborative leader of DEI initiatives, we support concepts that can address the blind spots of ethnic disparities and provide decision-makers in the tourism and events industry access, resources and tactics to develop more effective diversity and inclusion strategies.
Remember, Black History Month is more than 28 or 29 days in February!
Also, to be a leader, you must go beyond merely accepting “equal opportunity.” We must value and embrace diversity, equity and inclusion as a strategic competitive advantage.