African Americans added big bucks to the U.S. travel and tourism economy in 2018

According to a new study, African Americans added a big boom to the travel business amounting to some $63 billion in 2018.

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The study, conducted by Mandala Research, confirms a previous 2010 report that Black travelers are a plus to the tourism and travel economy in the US, debunking old assumptions that African Americans aren’t avid vacationers.

The study found that African Americans pick travel destinations with cultural and historical significance. Some 64 percent of the travelers reported those attractions are top destinations on their list because of its significance. The importance of African American cultural and heritage attractions rated at 43% for family reunion travelers.

The survey comprised of 1,700 respondents who are travelers in the African American population. 

RELATED: Take a look at the travel trends expected to gain popularity in 2019:

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Travel trends in 2019, according to TravelPirates experts
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Travel trends in 2019, according to TravelPirates experts

1. Bucket-List Hotel Stays

"Hotels that are the attraction will be huge in 2019. Think: hotels with outdoor showers in Manhattan, beer on tap in the room, guest art classes led by a local artist, social networks for meeting other guests (and connecting digitally as you would at a good old-fashioned hostel), and walking tours of the local neighborhood.

Hotels aren’t just your starting point for travel anymore, they are your destination. People are putting accommodation at the top of their bucket lists."

2. Curation — But Ditch the Travel Agent

"This is not your parent’s cookie-cutter trip. The same-old, same-old is not in fashion anymore for travelers: they’re not looking for trendy destinations. They want to see what’s not blowing up on their Instagram feeds.

Travelers want websites that cull the knowledge of experienced travelers and lets them know where they should go and how. Inspiration is a big business."

3. Don’t Think, Go! The Rise of Spontaneous Traveler

"Point to a place on a map and go. Weekends aren’t for farmers markets anymore. Travelers want to embrace the spontaneous lifestyle — bookings for last-minute trips are up and will only continue to rise.

From a weekend trip to Bermuda or the Hamptons to a spur-of-the-moment booking for next week, the “just go” attitude is here."

4. Off-Peak Season Is On

"The boom of cheap international flights from the U.S. has led to an increase in travel. The catch used to be that many of these $99 one-way flights sent you abroad in the “off-peak” season. Yes, off-peak season, where the weather is cool, the bookings available, and crowds minimal. Sounds not-so-off, right!"

5. Food Tourism Embraces Fusion

"“Authenticity” is a huge buzzword, but apply it to food and it sparks debate. Food tourism was on the rise in 2018, but 2019 will take it to a new level, as travelers look to experience the food fusions that reflect the modern culture of the destination.

From the Singaporean hawker centers that dole out dishes that stem from the diverse ethnic group of the country to the famous bulgogi taco of Southern California to Montreal’s restaurant representation of 50-plus nationalities, travelers want to taste something different."

6. Hyper-Connection

"In-room smart devices were a popular trend in 2017, but some hotel chains are taking the demand for hyper-connectivity to the next level with keyless room access. At Yotel Boston, you can check into your room using the chain’s app — no key required. What’s more, the Boston branch has a robot butler, YO2D2, who can deliver amenities and chat with you in the hotel’s lounge."

7. Communal Spaces — and the Hostel Vibe

"Chic, shared spaces are quickly becoming the norm for modern hotel chains. Why? Millennials want the community experience of a hostel with the luxurious furnishings of a hotel. The rooms at The Pod Hotel in Brooklyn are a minimalist’s dream, but the hotel really shines for its communal spaces.

It boasts a trendy rooftop bar and garden — the perfect place for hanging with other travelers."

8. Unique Amenities

"You know the oft-quoted mantra of seasoned travelers: See the city like a local. Authenticity is not just a recent buzzword, and the push for off-the-beaten-path travel has been amplified recently. The Freehand Hotel in New York City offers curated programming like nude drawing classes hosted by a local artist and historic walking tours of the local area.


New York City’s Arlo Hotel has suites with an outdoor shower for a truly memorable Manhattan experience — complete with shower beer."

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Key takeaways from the survey:

  • The economic value of African American travelers has increased in 2018 to $63 billion from $48 billion in 2010. African American “cultural” travelers are the highest spenders, with an average per trip spend of $2,078 versus $1,345 for all African American travelers.
  • More than half reported that their most recent leisure destination was between 100-500 miles from home with Florida, New York City/New York, and Atlanta being top US destinations and Caribbean/Bahamas (38%) and Mexico (26%) mentioned as leading international destinations
  • Food and shopping are leading spend categories with nearly half of travelers spending on local and/or regional cuisine on their most recent leisure trip. Shopping continues to be a popular activity for vacationers, most often at malls (41%) and outlet malls (34%), but also downtown (28%).

Mandala added, “We’ve been able to confirm through our many studies among domestic and international travelers that the African American story in America is one that resonates with cultural travelers of all types – the general market traveler, the international visitor — because the story of African Americans is the story of America.”

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According to Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO William D. Talbert, III, CDME, “The African American traveler is very important to the tourism market in Miami. Arts, culture and diversity make up the fabric of the community and key findings from this report show obvious alignment with interests of African Americans to the experiences and multicultural points of interest that Miami offers to both the leisure visitor and convention attendee.”

Gloria and Solomon Herbert, publishers of Black Meetings and Tourism Magazine, added “Since the last historic Green Book (Negro Travel Guide) was published in 1966, the growth in numbers and frequency of travel among African Americans continues to increase at unprecedented rates. In 2001, the African American market was identified by the United States Travel Association (USTA) as the number one fastest growing segment in the travel industry.

“Historically, Black people have tended to travel in groups for camaraderie and to some extent for protection. Now with the increased popularity of black travel clubs and networks, African American ‘baby boomers’, with more time and money, are exploring the world in a way they were never able to before.,” they continued.

Sponsors of the study included: Greater Miami Convention and Visitors BureauBermuda Tourism AuthorityNYC and CompanyVirginia Tourism CorporationVisit BaltimoreThe Shop America AllianceBlack Meetings and Tourism MagazineThe Vonne Groupthe Manumission Tour Company.

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