Tourism marketers must now go beyond optics to reach Black travellers

Photo showing black and white people enjoying a holiday meal together
A still from one of Bermuda Tourism Authority’s campaigns.

It was early June when many brands, tourism boards, and companies began posting the black squares. Ostensibly a show of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement — and the protests that swept across the world after the murder of George Floyd — the gesture quickly fell flat.

The reason for that was simple, say people in the Black travel community: The social media showmanship didn’t match past actions. “The travel industry is one of the whitest industries — which is very odd considering travel is supposed to be this innately inclusive place, but it doesn’t seem to be that,” said Martina Jones Johnson, a travel content creator and founding member of the Black Travel Alliance. The alliance formed in the wake of social unrest from George Floyd’s murder, and the ensuing pronouncements of “Black Lives Matter” from travel brands and companies.

For Johnson and her co-founders, the black squares were a tepid response to an insidious problem that has persisted forever in the travel industry — especially in the context of destination marketers and tourism boards. Tourism marketing is overwhelmingly white, which not only leaves out the huge market of Black travelers, but also perpetuates the racist stereotype that Black travelers don’t belong in certain space.

As numerous prominent Black thinkers, activists, and authors have noted in the wake of the recent protests, the national and international awakening about the racial injustice that people of color face feels different this time around. If there was ever a time for tourism boards to not only improve the diversity of their campaigns, but also more profoundly address the stubborn whiteness of the tourism marketing industry, now is that time.

It will come as no surprise that it also makes a lot of business sense to do so. The economic value of the African American travel market increased from $48 billion in 2010 to $63 billion in 2018, according to Mandala Research. And despite not being sufficiently catered for or marketed to, the Black Travel Movement has carved out a space for itself, challenging the idea that Black people don’t travel, or only want to visit certain destinations when they do.

This is an excerpt from an article by Rosie Spinks, originally published on Skift.

Travindy is an independent website featuring news and opinion on all issues to do with tourism and sustainability. Written primarily for an industry audience, our aim is to support the transformation of the sector into one that is regenerative, restorative and fully inclusive.

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