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Industry Briefs


Gloria Herbert                                     Solomon Herbert

The eyes of the world are once again strongly focused on this nation as the U.S.A. prepares to commemorate its 250th anniversary in 2026. Based on feedback from international journalists and cultural enthusiasts, interest in America's history is at an all-time high. Thoroughly intertwined in the making of this country is the story of African-Americans who were brought to this land involuntarily and who in some way have touched every aspect of its development.

As a part of the increasing global attention being given to U.S. heritage, there is also growing curiosity about the "Culture of Color." With Black Panther and Wakanda Forever recognized among the top grossing films in cinema history, and the popularity of award-winning movies such as One Night in Miami, Green Book and If Beale Street Could Talk, recent polls and surveys confirm the most pronounced interest in African-American culture since 1977, when Alex Haley's classic "Roots," and the T.V. mini-series it spawned, created a wave of heighten awareness about African American history and all things related, i.e. music, food, traditions, etc.

Even the 2018 Royal marriage ceremony of England's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, with its spirited infusions of African American representation, captivated the attention of an unprecedented number of television viewers around the globe. The headline news events regarding the police killings of more than 1,068 unarmed African-Americans since the murder of George Floyd have served to further raise questions regarding the role and status of Blacks in America

Laura Mandala

·      According to Laura Mandala, CEO of Mandala Research, "The history of African Americans is the history of America." In a recent PBS interview, Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the New York Times number one best-selling novel, The Water Dancer , suggests that after over 400 years of misinformation, or no information, the world is eager to learn the truth about Africans in America.

·      Documented reports by Travel Industry resources indicate post pandemic patterns and trends show a growing number of travelers visited a heritage site or museum and/or attended a cultural event during their last travel experience.

·      Based on a report from Mandala Research, 36% of all U.S. travelers say that "the availability of African American cultural, historic sites and attractions" is either "very important" (19%) or "somewhat important" (17%) in their choice of leisure destinations.       

·      A recent historic cultural traveler survey found that historic cultural travelers spend about 37% more during their stay then the average traveler in the US.

·      The survey also showed that historic cultural trips were more likely than the average to last at least seven nights and include air travel, a rental car and hotel lodging.

The Washington DC African American Smithsonian Museum, and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice , informally known as the National Lynching Museum in Montgomery, Alabama are among the recent Cultural/Heritage sites to join NYC's Apollo Theatre, and other similar venues, reporting over 50% of annual visitors coming from destinations outside of the U.S.

Today more than ever, travel is all about diversity and inclusion. From city to city there are unique and compelling stories that demonstrate the influence of People of Color. While it may be puzzling that elected officials in some states are making efforts to remove references to specific elements of American history as it relates to Blacks in this country, keep in mind that this is not the first time these kinds of alterations or blatant disregard of historical facts have been a major issue of national concern affecting Travel and Tourism.

Step back 160 years in time, just outside of what is now MOBILE, ALABAMA when 50 years after the U.S. Congress had banned the importation of slaves, the Clotilda , reportedly the last American Slave Ship, was illegally smuggled  into this country with110 enslaved Africans aboard.   T o hide their crime owners of the Clotilda, burned the ship to the ground and sank it in the muddy waters of Mobile Bay River where it remained buried until the wreckage was discovered and the truth revealed in 2015. The stories these 110 Clotilda cargo "passengers," passed down over the generations to their descendants, many who still reside in the historically Black town that is a part of Mobile, known as Africa Town, are the basis for a film that is in the making. Deemed by the National Geographic Society as one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 21st century, the discovery of the Clotilda's remains and the history surrounding it   have catapulted Africa Town and Mobile on a fast track to possibly become one of the

World's major tourism attractions.

Many attempts were made to suppress and even totally erase from history, recorded accounts of the Clotilda. The same is true regarding the Tulsa/Greenwood, Oklahoma Deadly Race massacre in 1921, which was one of the better-known mob attacks carried out against Black communities during the 20 th century. Rising from the ashes of this well documented incidence of "mass murder on American soil, Tulsa's 7,000 square foot Greenwood Rising museum stands as a beacon of hope on the global Stage, attracting visitors from far and near.

H. T. Smith

Through the years the Travel Industry has been challenged to address attempts to lessen, disrespect or disregard the value of African American heritage and culture. One important occurrence that dramatically changed the picture of BLACK TRAVEL was in 1990.  After 3 major racially motivated riots in the city Miami, FL, human rights icon Nelson Mandela was invited to receive a proclamation and the key to the city.   Because Mandela acknowledged Fidel Castro for supporting him during his 30 years of imprisonment, the Miami city leaders rescinded the official welcome. This triggered what prominent Miami African American attorney, H. T. Smith refers to as "the quiet riot," which in fact led to a boycott that kept Black associations and organizations from visiting and doing business in Miami for almost three years and reportedly cost the city upwards of $50 million in lost convention business and tourism revenue.

R. Donahue Peebles

After the dust settled, Miami city officials and the African-American community came to terms implementing major political, social and economic Improvements directly and indirectly attributable to the boycott. Among the notable results was the establishment of the first Black-owned, convention-quality hotel in the Miami Beach area - the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza, with majority African American owner, R. Donahue Peebles.

Because the state of South Carolina refused to stop flying the contentious Confederate flag from its Capitol.  In 1999 the NAACP launched a tourism boycott urging groups not to come to the state until the flag came down, which was in effect for 15 years and created a possible loss of $2.37 billion in economic impact.   Fast forward to 2018 the city of Charleston, S.C. formally denounced and apologized for the city's role in the institution of slavery in the United States. In June 2023 at Charleston's Gadsden's Wharf - one of the nation's most prolific former slave trading ports,  the International African American Museum will open its doors to the public.   Dr. Tonya Matthews, the museum's president and CEO states "IAAM strives not only to provide a space for all visitors to celebrate and connect to this history, to these stories, and to this art, but also to find meaning within their own stories."

Whether following the trail of enslaved Black Americans at the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati Ohio, reliving the life of a sports icon who for the latter part of the 20th century was identified as the most recognizable American in the world, at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY, honoring the legacy of the famed "Red Tails" World War II black fighter pilots at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum in Detroit, Michigan, or learning about the making of a President at the   Obama Presidential Center on Chicago's South Side (scheduled to open in 2025), America is inviting the world to learn about its 250 year journey.

We have often been told that history is a collection of experiences based on "his story (and her story)." The world's cross examination during America's upcoming Semiquincentennial will bring many of these frequently under rated stories to light; stories that tell us who we were, help us to realize who we are and perhaps more importantly, that serve to compel us to be who we strive to become.

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According to the Congressional Commission, the commemoration period began in 2020, culminates on

July 4, 2026, and officially concludes in 2027.

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