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Industry Briefs
TRAVELING IN OUR WORLD RESPOND – REBOUND – RENEW – RECOVER
BY GLORIA AND SOLOMON HERBERT

4 Principles to Help Carry Us Through and…Beyond COVID-19

The Business of Black Travel



Our dear Colleagues and Industry Partners:

 

As we look to emerge from this unparalleled time in the lives of all Humanity, the professional Travel Community remains totally committed to maintaining the health and wellness measures we are taking for ourselves, our families, our clients and our employees, by following the guidance of global health experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While this worldwide unprecedented health crisis has created a massively destructive impact on the Travel/Tourism industry, it is imperative that as quickly as possible we position ourselves to prepare for the REBOUND and RECOVERY.   While this industry and our market have seen their share of catastrophic, uncertain and difficult times, perhaps nothing compares to this global pandemic we are currently experiencing.

 

For over 25 years BM&T has had the privilege of reporting on and providing information to the African-American segment of the $2.5 trillion U.S. Travel, Tourism, Meetings and Hospitality industry.


BM&T has chronicled the growth of this market segment from the 1990s when Leslie Doggett, then Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Travel and Tourism for the US Department of Commerce, verified that the market was worth $15 billion, to its current status of, according to Mandala Research, being recognized as one of the fastest growing and economically viable markets within the industry, and having a leisure travel sector alone valued at upwards of $63 billion.


During the course of those years our nation and our world experienced devastating events, such as SARS, tremendous economic recessions, major climatic catastrophes, i.e. Hurricane Katrina, oil spills, Ebola virus, national and international wild fires, terror related incidences, including mass shootings, random killing of unarmed Black citizens, and September 11th.


Our Industry learned many valuable lessons from each of those occurrences.  In many ways they consumed us, but they also changed us. As we all begin to rebuild our businesses, COVID-19 provides a compelling motivation for Travel/Tourism professionals to closely examine the way we structure and promote who we are and what we’re doing.   Seeing our planet through post-quarantine lens, the concepts of DIVERSITY & INCLUSION take on a very real new meaning.


Based on BM&T’s own polls & surveys and feedback and research from industry experts, housebound, would-be African-American consumer travelers are expressing “a pent-up need to travel,” and are starting to plan as they look forward to taking trips that have been postponed. With destinations and hotels allowing meeting planners to re-schedule their conference and convention dates without penalties and providing them with every assistance possible to facilitate those changes, many African-American associations have begun to set new dates and rally their members to raise attendance numbers.


BM&T has long held the belief that African-Americans consider the freedom to TRAVEL as one of those inalienable rights, perhaps as precious as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a freedom that did not come without years of struggle and challenge. In a recent interview with Candacy Taylor, author of the newly released book, OVERGROUND  RAILROAD, The Green Book & the Roots of Black Travel in America ,   Candacy reminded us that in the not too distant past, African-Americans literally risked their lives as they traveled to visit family members or took their children to see places in the U.S. that played a significant role in Black history.


The havoc of COVID-19 not withstanding, the African-American Market continues to demonstrate strong tendencies for resiliency and motivation to travel.

 

With more leisure time and more discretionary funds, TRAVEL remains the new paradigm of FREEDOM for most African-American Baby Boomers. This segment of the Black travel market often looks to explore their heritage, history and world connections. Many of these travelers greatly enjoy experiences that remind them of their youth. They plan and invest to have those ”once in a life-time” experiences that travel offers.

 

Because of their education and exposure, African-American Gen Xers still desire to explore the world in a way their parents never did. TRAVEL may be considered the apex of ACHIEVEMENT for Gen Xers. This is the generation of African-Americans whose parents were the first benefactors of the hard fought battle for equal rights in this country.  They are often reminded of those struggles by their elders who came before them.   FAMILY is a strong focus in their lives. Family Reunions are often at the core of their recurring travel plans.

 

These travelers often opt to take their children on ventures that introduce them to a higher economic standard of living to which they themselves may not have been accustomed, i.e., a cruise, a visit to a foreign country or a popular theme park.

 

Among Black “Millennials” and those in "Generation Y," TRAVEL is considered somewhat of a “RITE OF PASSAGE” These young travelers appear to be thrilled by adventure and they share highlights of their journeys to far reaching places around the world through every conceivable social media platform.

 

They are characteristically curious, independent and often travel in groups. This demographic is largely responsible for the formation of the growing number African-American affinity travel clubs that stay connected through social media.

 

No matter the age group, shared interests or other demographic differences, African-Americans are eager to hit the road again, visiting places they have always dreamed of, places they have never dreamed of, places they love to go to, and places they have never been before.

Because HOSPITALITY is an integral component of our industry, we must demand that requirements and protocols for the highest standards of hygiene, sanitation and behavior be implemented to ensure the safety, wellness and comfort of ALL travelers and ALL industry employees.


Undoubtedly, as with most segments of our society, there will be a “NEW NORM” for the  tourism industry, perhaps with unprecedented restrictions, i.e. “social distancing,” wearing masks & gloves, etc.   Probably to most individuals traveling, these will seem minor inconveniences and will be quite familiar and even welcomed precautions that will allow them to see the world “beyond their backyards.” BM&T surveys and polls indicate that “post COVID-19” travelers will be traveling shorter distances initially and will be looking for price incentives.” Though we may find, as was true after September 11 th, Americans will be traveling “with their heartstrings as much as their purse strings.”


Our industry and all human beings are trusting for a better tomorrow. Although there is still much more work to be done, human beings will emerge on the other side of this hopefully wiser, more compassionate, stronger and more resilient than ever.

 

Not only will we get through this, the time will soon come when the world will be ready to laugh again, have fun again, be happily reconnected again and live life filled with opportunities to embrace our fellow humans, explore our world and enrich our own lives.  Again, TRAVEL – TOURISM & HOSPITALITY will be an essential vehicle to help make that happen.

 

Gloria and Solomon Herbert are principals of BM&T Media, which publishes Black Meetings & Tourism magazine, the awarding winning, international trade publication, for and about the African-American segment of the Travel Industry.


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