With African-Americans hitting the road more and spending more on their vacations, the travel industry has been gearing up to cater more to Blacks and their travel needs. African-American travel volume jumped 4 percent from 2000 to 2002, higher than the 2 percent increase for travelers overall during the same time period, according to the Minority Report conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America. “These growth rates show that our industry has been very assertive in its efforts to market to minority travelers,” says William S. Norman, TIAA’s president and CEO. “Every sector of our industry–hotels, theme parks, city visitor bureaus–has begun to reach out to theminority traveler through targeted advertising, minority travel guides and special ethnic promotions and I think we are seeing
In 2002, minority travelers generated nearly 18 percent of all person-trips taken in the U.S. and 19 percent of domestic travel expenditures. Domestic expenditures by minority travelers totaled about $90 billion in 2002 (the latest figures available). According to Target Market News, Blacks spent $4.8 billion on transportation, travel and lodging in 2003, down, but coming back steadily from pre-9/11 levels of over
Groups and activities
The types of travel have more than expanded over the last few years. There are singles-only trips, girlfriend getaways, spa retreats, learning vacations, golf escapes, and cultural tours, among many more. “African-Americans are enjoying not only the traditional vacation destinations like the Caribbean, Paris, Mexico, etc., but are also now venturing into health- and fitness-oriented vacations like health spas and hiking,” says Bob Dockery, publisher of Travel & Enjoy magazine and owner of the travel agency Travel & Enjoy, which specializes in group, incentive and/or affinity travel.
Cruises have become a main stay for African-Americans. “Many African-Americans have taken to cruising, especially jazz cruises and chartered cruises like the Tom Joyner Cruise and Blue World Travel’s African-American Festival at Sea,,” notes Dockery. “Of course, Blacks have been skiing for years so this is not a new trend. However, the ski market continues to be strong in this group,” he says.
Family travel as well has been a steady segment in Black travel trends. “Families are traveling to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] football games, family-friendly resorts in the Caribbean; [they’re] taking short cruises to the Caribbean as well as doing family reunions all over the United States,” says Robert Reed of Black Travel America.
Girlfriend getaways have been growing and singles-only packages are on the rise, but spa vacations still aren’t as hot with Blacks. The TIAA found that while one in four (26 percent) of trips taken by African-Americans include children under 18, more than half (51 percent) of African-American trips are made by adults traveling alone or with someone outside their household. “Singles travel is also increasing,” says Dockery.
But men and women are looking for different things out of their singles-only vacations. “Singles, men and women, are mostly traveling to the same locations, but for different reasons,” explains Reed. “Cruises to the Caribbean are most popular for singles get-togethers. Women are traveling with their girlfriends to Jamaica, the Bahamas and Las Vegas with the intention of meeting some special person, with no commitments, and to have a romantic fling. Women will get together and take a cruise on a whim, but men are reluctant to take a cruise with another guy. Men are traveling to Jamaica for the freedom to indulge in illicit pleasures or to meet women. Also, men are traveling to Rio de Janeiro, the Dominican Republic, Thailand, Costa Rica and other islands in the Caribbean on shorts excursions billed as ‘fishing expeditions.’ None ever return with fish.”
Group tours are popular among African-Americans, especially for families, church groups, hobby clubs and other types of organizations. According to the TIAA, compared to travelers overall, nearly three times as many African-American person-trips involve group tours (10 percent versus 3 percent). “Groups, be they family reunions, friends or singles gatherings, are filling up the cruise ships on the short three- to four-night cruises to the Caribbean,” says Reed. “The cruise vacation is the best vacation buy and when large groups are getting together cost will become a factor,” he says.
Once away, there are several activities African-Americans tend to prefer, according to the TIAA. Aside from shopping (41 percent of person-trips), other popular activities on African-American trips include nightlife or dancing (13 percent), visiting historical places or museums (12 percent), attending cultural events or festivals (12 percent), visiting theme or amusement parks (12 percent), and gambling (12 percent).
As always, the Caribbean--especially Jamaica--is a popular destination option for African-Americans traveling internationally. “Romantic couples are traveling throughout the Caribbean Islands. Jamaica is the hot spot, as it has been for the last 10 to 15 years,” says Reed. “Mature lifelong couples are cruising everywhere, especially in the Caribbean and Alaska.”
But Brazil has seen probably the biggest jump for African-American tourists. “African-Americans have discovered Brazil, especially Bahia, which is the cultural center of Brazil,” says Dockery. “Salvador da Bahia is the favorite Brazilian destination with African-Americans. Our tours stay there for a minimum of five days as opposed to three in Rio de Janeiro.” In fact, Essence magazine co-founder Clarence Smith recently launched a travel company, called Avocet Travel, that specializes in travel to Brazil.
Africa as a destination has developed over the past decade, with many going on cultural excursions to South Africa and Ghana. “Since 1994 many African-Americans have visited South Africa, touring Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned, as well as the wineries and safaris,” says Dockery.
Europe still does not rank as a must for Black vacationers, although Paris gets a steady stream of African-Americans drawn to the City of Lights. “Paris continues to be the most popular European destination among Blacks for historic reasons,” says Dockery.
But, “Italy is coming up,” says Reed. And, he notes. “One relatively new trend is for high-end clients is to travel to Hong Kong and Thailand to purchase tailored clothing and jewelry.” Many Black church groups make their way annually to the Holy Land.
African-Americans vacationing States side, most often head south. In fact, according to the TIAA, African-Americans are much more likely to travel to destinations throughout the southern census divisions, specifically to the south Atlantic (37 percent of person-trips), West South Central (15 percent), and East South Central (13 percent) divisions. Many may attend family reunions and make a full- fledged vacation out of the trip. In fact, many organized family reunions will also include city tours, visits to Black cultural sites, and other activities ousted the reunion itself.
Besides the south, “Las Vegas is still attractive to the young and old because anything that you are looking for can be found there and the cost of a Las Vegas vacation is still very reasonable,” says Reed. Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando are also popular, especially for families.
According to TIAA, on one in ten trips (10 percent), African-American households spend $1,000 or more, excluding transportation to the destination. Dream vacations, however, can be big-budget. “People tend to splurge on their dream vacations,” says Dockery. “These are usually vacations that are once-in-a-lifetime occasions, i.e., 50th birthdays, second honeymoons, major wedding anniversaries, etc. I know of African-Americans who have charted large yachts for their friends and sailed the Greek Islands or the Caribbean. Others have traveled as far away as Bali and stayed in some secluded, exotic resort. Others have traveled to Costa Rica and stayed at places like Vila Caletas, which offers individual suites with fishponds and Jacuzzis. Still others visit fancy spas in Florida or California,” he says.
By Ann Brown