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Emily Brooklyn Williams has always been a planner at heart, so it felt natural to turn her passion for organizing travel into a side hustle, she says. This — coupled with a love of travel that started with taking French lessons in the seventh grade — inspired Williams to launch Been Around the World (BATW) Travels in 2018.
“I daydreamed about flying to Paris and bought Conde Nast magazines, picturing myself in those photo spreads,” she said. “I suppose I’ve long known that travel would be in my future.”
BAWT Travels offers specialty group trips, which are led by a travel advisor, in addition to individual trips that are customized for families, couples, groups and singles.
The Washington, D.C.-based travel agency owner also works at a law firm by day. However, she intends to transition to work full-time on BATW Travels in the near future.
Williams says she is especially passionate about getting more people of color (POC) to travel the world in order to break racial stereotypes and misconceptions of Black and brown people. Below, Williams expands upon why this objective is so important; how the travel industry can better understand and meet the demands of POC; and more.
Tell me more about BATW Travels’ mission statement, which is “to inspire POC to travel the world by curating epic adventures that cater to their unique interests.” Why is it important to specifically include POC in this goal? BATW Travels’ goal is to provide a 'Luxe Reduxe' travel experience in locations across the globe. Luxe Redux means we offer a mid-luxury experience. This helps keeps our price point low in comparison to other full-luxury travel companies.
Our goal is to get more POC traveling the world so we can break racial stereotypes and misconceptions of Black and brown people. There is a pervasive narrative that POC are not as cultured as other racial groups. These stereotypes are particularly focused on Black Americans; we are constantly told we do not 'have a culture.' That is far from the truth.
There is a pervasive narrative that POC are not as cultured as other racial groups. These stereotypes are particularly focused on Black Americans; we are constantly told we do not ‘have a culture.’ That is far from the truth.
I want to help educate 'us' about our culture, where our culture comes from and the contributions our culture has made in the world. That may encompass visiting San Basilio de Palenque, the first free town for Africans in Cartagena, Colombia; visiting Assin Manso, the slave river in Ghana; or learning about the Africans who migrated to Greece in the 14th century. It’s important for 'us' to see our history, which is not taught in the history books in America.
However, while we cater to a predominately Black crowd, we would embrace anyone interested in our trips. Some of our guests have said to us, 'One BATW Travels trip, and you’ll be hooked.' We’re proud to service many repeat clients each year.
How can the travel industry better cater to POC, including Black travelers?Well, first, please treat us with respect. This is a simple request, but many times we are prejudged as soon as tour operators see we are Black. Also, the tourism industry needs to be welcoming of POC who travel to their countries. So many people of color return telling horror stories after visiting certain countries because of the treatment they received there. It’s an unfortunate reality that I hope we can overcome one day.
What sets BATW Travel apart from other travel agencies? Clients say our trips are like traveling with their extended family — in a good way. I have the unique ability to make anyone feel welcomed and catered to. When you are on vacation, you want to feel relaxed and catered to, and BATW Travels provides an excellent balance of both.
BATW Travels also prides itself in curation and personalization. How does your team ensure that clients are fully satisfied with their customized vacations?We send clients an extensive questionnaire, asking questions such as whether they are traveling with small or older children who require a sitter. We ask about celebrations — whether we need to plan something romantic or if we can be more casual for planned outings.
Some of our clients joke that our questionnaire is like a job application, but we believe it’s necessary to ask a broad range of questions so we can get all the details right. We believe in doing all the heavy lifting, so our clients can focus solely on enjoying their vacations.
Can you share an exceptionally rewarding trip that you’ve planned for clients?Our Kenya trip in summer 2019 was amazing. We traveled with 17 clients and arranged a stay in the hotel where President Barack Obama typically stays, visited the gorgeous beaches in Mombasa, went on a two-day safari and danced with the Maasai Mara tribe. Overall, it was one of the best group trips yet. It was also one of my personal favorite vacations ever. (Insider tip: If you’re ever in Kenya, try the all-meat restaurant Carnivore in Nairobi. It’s an experience!)
How has BATW Travels handled the pause in tourism due to COVID-19? Thankfully, we’ve handled the pause fairly well. We canceled our 2020 Greece trip due to COVID-19, but we are happy to report that we were able to reschedule our Morocco and Dubai/Maldives trips to 2021. While travel has slowed significantly, we are now pivoting by offering travel merchandise and other travel-related accessories, and it’s been fun designing those products.
The DetailsBeen Around the World Travelswww.batwtravels.com