Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Industry Briefs

Black U.S. leisure travelers spent $109.4 billion on travel in 2019, according to the results from the first phase of MMGY Travel's "The Black Traveler: Insights, Opportunities & Priorities" report.   The spend was generated by 458.2 million Black U.S. traveler stays in 2019, which accounts for more than 13 percent of the U.S. leisure travel market. Developed on behalf of Black traveler advocacy organizations to identify the needs, behaviors and sentiment of the Black travel community, the study includes data from both MMGY Global's 2019 Shifflet TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/Monitor-which surveyed 4,800 Black U.S. leisure travelers-and a 2020 survey of 200 members of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP). Based on research conducted by Black Meetings & Tourism, African-Americans spend an additional $9-10 billion annually on meetings and conventions, generating a total of more than $119 billion in travel related revenue each year.

Add to this the social justice movement spawned by the Black Lives Matter protests, along with lawsuits initiated and won by media mogul Byron Allen, much consideration is now being focused on this long underserved and under valued market segment.   Prior to this recent attention and before the pandemic forced the travel industry to pause, our experience has been that most destinations, hotel brands, airlines, cruise lines etc. have not valued the African-American travel market segment and have not been willing to seriously invest in this market segment.   As an example, based on research conducted by Black Meetings & Tourism, currently less than 4% of all destinations advertise with Black-owned media.

As another example, most Black organizations find it much more difficult to secure adequate sponsorship dollars for conference and meeting activities compared to general market organizations.  I was once a member of the now defunct International Travel Agents Society (ITAS), the first association of Black travel agents formed back in the '50s.   They struggled for years to secure underwriting for their annual conferences from destinations that wanted and welcomed the revenue generated by Black travelers, but weren't willing to invest in the organization.   They eventually folded.  

Some years ago I also sat on the welcoming committee for a general market association that was bringing its conference to Los Angeles.  Potential sponsors were lined up, eagerly offering their financial support to the organization.   Universal Studios committed over $700K in cash and in kind services.   That's just one of many sponsors that stepped up to underwrite the event.   Yet ITAS had to call it quits because while they were doing excellent work, they couldn't find enough sponsorship dollars to cover the cost of a meal function.   Many Black organizations are facing these same challenges today.

The good news is that Black Meetings & Tourism is seeing a significant uptick in interest from potential clients who have never ever advertised with us, and from others who have not placed ads with us for many years.   We trust this is not just a passing trend, but an indication that mindsets are changing and the playing field is leveling. Hopefully this growing social consciousness also promotes a change in the hiring and promotion policies of CVBs, hotels, state tourism agencies and other travel/meeting industry entities that will result in more equity for African-Americans and other people of color.

And finally, we implore those decision makers in our reading audience to take heed and become proactive in bringing long overdue parity to our industry when hiring, contracting vendors, advertising, or sponsoring association events.