In 2018, Mandala Research found that African American travelers contribute $63 billion to the U.S. travel and tourism economy. This is a considerable jump from Mandala’s previous survey of African American travelers in 2011, which reported spending at $48 billion.
Travel advisors, along with companies across the tourism industry, would be wise to better understand this underrepresented — and oftentimes misrepresented — demographic.
Following are 11 Black influencers in the travel space who offer powerful perspectives into how and why they travel.
Dissatisfied by the lack of inclusivity in travel marketing and media, Annette Richmond started Fat Girls Traveling as an Instagram account. Not long after, it catapulted into a fervent movement. She launched The Fat Girls Guide, as well, which spotlights content from other voices in the plus-size community. Through Fat Girls Traveling, Richmond works with travel partners (such as Intrepid Travel) to create specialized group trips for all sizes and genders.
Last but not least, Richmond runs her own blog, From Annette With Love, which recounts her travels around the globe.
After quitting her job in corporate America, Ciara Johnson set off not only to explore the world but also to share her journey. By capturing her experiences in words and photographs, Johnson intends to inspire others looking to do the same.
Johnson’s blog, titled Hey Ciara, tackles everything from dealing with COVID-19-related anxiety to a breakdown of what it’s really like to be Black while abroad. In a post where she describes her experience in Uzbekistan, she writes, “Traveling (and living) while Black means being hyper-aware of your existence and how it shapes your experience within the world. I’m also aware that other people are aware, and it’s the exact reason that I have no choice but to be.”
A former travel advisor, European expat and senior leader at
various cruise lines, Denella Ri’chard shares her love for travel in her
series, “Traveling With Denella Ri’chard.” The Telly Award-winning show is now in
its fifth season, with past episodes taking Ri’chard near (Florida and
Louisiana) and far (the Galapagos, Antarctica).
The series airs on various ABC, CBS, NBC and CW affiliate
stations, as well as streaming platforms GFNTV and GoTraveler.
Ermest White II
Ernest White II is the mastermind behind “Fly Brother With Ernest White II,” a PBS travel docuseries about friendship and connection. He also hosts Fly Brother Radio Show and manages the publishing behind FlyBrother.net, which he launched in 2018 while living as an expat in Colombia.
Viewers can tune into White II’s “Fly Brother” docuseries via their local public television station. They can follow along as he travels to destinations including Brazil, Georgia, Ethiopia, India, Tajikistan, Namibia and Sweden.
A travel photographer and journalist, Erick Prince is determined to see as much of the world as he can — and is taking his followers along for the ride. Through his YouTube channel Minority Nomad, Prince chronicles his experiences in destinations such as Thailand, Cambodia and India. He also interviews Black expats on their experiences living in destinations far from home.
Prince offers astute blog posts, too, including travel and street photography tips and what people should know before they decide to move abroad.
In September 2011, Evita Robinson founded the online community Nomadness Travel Tribe as a safe space for millennials of color. According to the organization’s website, its mission is “to show the world that travel has no racial, gender, religious, economic, or interest limitations through our community representation and relevancy.”
Today, the organization has evolved to comprise more than 20,000 Black and Brown voices. It has grown in a multitude of other extraordinary ways, too — from curating nearly 30 international group trips to a web series called “The Nomadness Project,” which was launched in 2015 under the direction of Robinson and actress Issa Rae of the HBO television series “Insecure.”
Traveling (and living) while black means being hyper-aware of your existence and how it shapes your experience within the world. I’m also aware that other people are aware, and it’s the exact reason that I have no choice but to be.
But Robinson didn’t just stop there. She gave a Ted Talk in 2017 on the history of travel for African Americans, from the Jim Crow era to present day. In 2019, she launched Audacity Fest, the first-ever travel festival for young travelers of color. Panels, workshops and speakers all explore the intersection of travel and race.
Heather Greenwood Davis
Prolific travel journalist Heather Greenwood Davis has traveled all over the world on assignment for publications such as National Geographic Traveler, The Globe and Mail and TravelAge West. She’s the writer behind Globetrotting Mama, which shares stories of traveling with her husband and two sons in tow. Though many of her experiences have been remarkable and joyful, some have been startling and eye-opening — such as the nuanced realization of what it’s like to be Black when visiting China.
Heather writes about a plethora of topics, including family travel, but a few that especially resonate today include an important look into how to talk to kids about race; what she’s learned as a Black traveler; and why travel agents should be promoting diversity.
Jessica Nabongo is devoted to the power of travel — so much so that she runs a popular travel blog, owns a boutique travel firm and operates a luxury lifestyle brand for jetsetters. Nabongo is a public speaker, too, and has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, Forbes and Conde Nast Traveler, among others. Not to mention, she was the first Black woman to travel to all of the countries in the world, a title she earned in October 2019.
Her blog, Catch Me If You Can, was launched as a medium to share her story of being a first-generation American born and raised in Detroit to Ugandan parents, and of loving travel, writing and photography. Catch Me If You Can offers a wealth of travel advice, including must-dos in Cuba, a 72-hour guide to Peru’s Cusco and Machu Picchu, and more.
Meanwhile, Nabongo’s Jet Black travel firm specializes in trips to Africa, Central and South America and the Caribbean. The company offers small-group, carefully curated itineraries called Jet Black Jaunts, in addition to private travel planning services.
Kellee Edwards isn’t one to sit around and twiddle her thumbs. Besides being a renowned journalist, television host and travel expert, she is licensed as a pilot and an advanced Open Water scuba diver. On Travel Channel’s “Mysterious Islands,” Edwards leans into her adventurous spirit on some of the Earth’s most remote islands. (Before the show’s 2017 launch, the Travel Channel had gone seven years without a female host. What’s more, Edwards is the network’s first Black woman to host her own show.)
Others might recognize Edwards from her partnership with Ford (which resulted in a Ford commercial, as well as a cover in Travel + Leisure); her coveted position on Conde Nast Traveler’s 2019 The Women Who Travel Power List; and numerous other hard-earned accomplishments.
In addition to running her own award-winning travel blog called Oneika the Traveller, Oneika Raymond has hosted two Travel Channel shows, including “One Bag and You’re Out” and “Big City, Little Budget.” Raymond writes for Conde Nast Traveler, Essence Magazine and more. She has also acted as an on-air travel and lifestyle correspondent for NBC New York and CTV Canada.
Through her blog, social media and other platforms, the multilingual Raymond is passionate about using travel to “power, educate and explore.” Readers of her blog can utilize her firsthand tips on traveling to destinations such as Zambia, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Barbados and beyond. Raymond also travels extensively with her husband and toddler, offering tips and inspiration for family travelers.
Travel and lifestyle blogger Samantha O’Brochta is proud of her visibility as a female traveler of color, and for good reason. Her blog, Some Call Me Adventurous, showcases her honest perspectives of traveling in places such as the U.K. — where she studies theater (in London). She has also penned travel features for publications including Popsugar, Mic, Huffington Post, Culture Trip and more.
A recent accomplishment by O’Brochta is the launch of Wander Wench, a web travel zine fully created by and for womxn and nonbinary folx who are underrepresented in the tourism space.
In her editor’s letter for the zine, O’Brochta says, “I have spent the last three years of my career trying to promote diversity as much as I can through social media and writing. It’s been incredible to see how little things I’ve done have made a change in someone’s life. It’s inspired me to continue on giving a space to those who don’t get the recognition they deserve due to unfair biases.”