Luring the Black Traveler: An African and Caribbean agenda

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Recognizing the tremendous buying power of African-Americans, who spend more than $5 billion on transportation, travel and lodging, Caribbean and African tourism officials are trying to lure African-American tourists to their respective regions. The most cursory research on the African-American traveler turns up juicy facts and figures. A recent Travel Industry Association report, The Minority Traveler, notes that African-American spending power is expected to increase 32 percent between 2002 and 2007, from approximately $646 billion to more than $852 billion; that the value of the African-American travel and tourism industry is an estimated $35 billion; and that 66 percent of African-American households take vacations.

Among Caribbean countries, some of the most vigorous marketing to U.S. Blacks comes from Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, the Bahamas and Barbados, with their menus of jazz festivals featuring African-American celebrities, literary festivals, heritage trails and themed experiences, such as golfing and health and wellness retreats and religious tours. Bermuda’s African Diaspora Heritage Trail and Barbados’ Gospelfest are cases in point.

Signs that targeted marketing is bearing fruit is seen in the lucrative conventions sector. In the United States alone, African-Americas spend $5.6 billion annually on conventions, making them the U.S. industry’s biggest customers. Caribbean travel and tourism officials have taken note. Accordingly, the Region I group (Connecticut, Maine, Mass-achusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and the U.S. Virgin Islands) of the National Medical Association, the umbrella group for African-American physicians, will hold its annual meeting in the Caribbean May 24–28.
In another example of Black niche marketing, family-owned Jungle Trek-king Adventures and Safaris (www.experiencescaribbean.com), located in Dominica, is targeting Black families for unique adventure tours on what is called “the nature island of the Caribbean.”

On the Africa side, the World Tourism Organization cites the continent as one of the fastest growing destinations for international tourists. Africa in 2006 outpaced all other regions, with almost twice the rate of global growth in tourist arrivals; arrivals climbed 8.1 percent for the year from an already strong 2005. This performance was led by sub-Saharan Africa, where tourist arrivals increased 9.4 percent for the year against North Africa’s 5.8 percent growth.
As in the Caribbean, Africa’s travel and tourism officials are taking aim at African-Americans. Ghana, for example, has planned a slew of tourist-attractive activities, most notably “Diaspora Month” in August, to mark its 50th anniversary of independence.

Some countries are zeroing in on women travelers, following reports of a growing trend of women executives traveling alone. In Kenya, for example, hotels are scrambling to be more accessible to businesswomen, a niche they previously neglected, according to a Feb. 20 article in The East African, a leading Kenyan newspaper. In Nairobi, the capital, hotels are creating incentives and amenities such as spa baths, relaxation centers and new lines of toiletries. In some facilities, female executive guests even have a choice between Western and alternative types of therapy, the article says.

Efforts also are under way to attract Blacks, not only as tourists but also as investors in Africa’s tourism sector. Travel and tourism will be among the continent’s “most dynamic business sectors” that will be promoted at the 2007 Africa Business Forum in Washington, D.C. Organized by the World Bank Group-IMF Africa Investment Club, and the Africa Trade and Investment Council, the forum will take place June 5–7 and will include a Business Information Expo, where attendees can speak with representatives of organizations that offer specific services to international businesses and participate in  matchmaking sessions based on areas of interest. More information on this forum can be obtained from Debbie Banda at 202-623-6421, or by visiting www.africbusinessforum.com.