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Industry Briefs
Solomon J. Herbert

Solomon J. Herbert

When I am contemplating international travel, I more often than not think of Caribbean destinations.  Why?   Because the region is close and convenient, and this is where I can see people who look like me, plus enjoy the culture, food and music that has it's roots in our Motherland Africa.   My father was from Trinidad, and I still have family there, so my interest in the region is genuine and authentic!!

Years ago, when Black Meetings & Tourism held the Global Travel Pavilion at the Congressional Black Cause Legislative Weekend trade show, we used to take surveys about travel patterns and trends.  Of the multitude of   African-American attendees who stopped by our booth, the overwhelming majority of them placed Caribbean destinations at the top of their travel wish lists.

Many countries in the region  report that a major portion of their visitors come from North America, and a significant number of these are Black.   Moreover , African-Americans are more apt to explore the neighborhoods and attractions, interact with the people, and spend their money at small local businesses, as opposed to laying on the beach at an all-inclusive when the meetings are over for the day.  Naturally, this goes for Black leisure travelers too.

So is has always confounded me why Caribbean destinations see little value in promoting the region to the $129 billion+ African-American market.  For the record, Black Meetings & Tourism, referred to by many as "The Bible of African-American Travel," has been publishing for nearly 30 years.   We used to get minimal advertising support from a handful of Caribbean destinations, but that support has all but disappeared over the last decade, and our only Caribbean advertising partner at the moment is the USVI.   This despite the fact that BM&T continues support the region with editorial in each issue and in our monthly newsletters.   Like I said, I'm confounded!

According to Marketplace Excellence's Bevan Springer in one of his recent columns,  " The Caribbean could be losing billions of dollars in tourism revenue by not fully harvesting the enormous value of diverse markets in North America and beyond."   Bevan is being generous. There is no "The Caribbean COULD BE losing billions of dollars here."   In reality it is "The Caribbean IS losing billions of dollars here."

So how do we fix this?  To reach the most African-American meeting and event planners as well as travel agents and other travel specialists, Caribbean destinations need to begin reaching out to this market by supporting and partnering with Black-owned media in the U.S., especially a trade publication like BM&T.   This will not only allow them to repay the support these media companies have given them in the past, but also put them on the right track to grow their market share.   Additionally, Caribbean destinations need to become more involved as participants and sponsors at African-American conferences as conventions.

To my brothers and sisters at the ministries of tourism and departments of tourism throughout the Caribbean, I implore you to acknowledge the value of the burgeoning African-American market segment, and utilize Black-owned media to help bring more attendees and leisure travelers to the region from the market they serve.

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