African American Travelers Spent $63 Billion in 2018

A new survey by Mandala Research shows that African American travelers are a significant travel group who contributed about $63 billion to the U.S. travel and tourism economy in 2018.

This is the second study in a series of studies that examines African American travelers. The first occurred in 2010.

This second study surveyed 1,700 African American travelers about their travel habits. The biggest takeaway from the survey is that African American travelers spending increased from $48 billion in 2010 to $63 billion in 2018.

More than half of African American travelers spent their most recent vacation between 100-500 miles from home. Their top U.S. destinations were Florida, New York City, and Atlanta, while the Caribbean/Bahamas lead among international destinations at 38 percent, followed closely by Mexico at 26 percent.

According to the study, African American travelers spend about $1,345, while African American “cultural” travelers, as the report names them, spend an average of $2,078 per trip. These travelers tend to spend most of their money on local and regional cuisine and shopping trips at malls, outlet malls, and in downtown areas.

Where African Americans choose to travel to often boils down to how many African American cultural and heritage attractions are available in a destination. It’s so significant that 64 percent of African American travelers consider this when researching a destination.

Destinations appear to be recognizing this important travel determination among African American travelers.

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.”

Kevin Dallas, CEO of Bermuda Tourism Authority and study sponsor echoes Talbert, saying, “Given the rapid growth in this market segment, increasing the number of African American travelers to Bermuda is a strategic goal of our recently released National Tourism Plan. The Mandala research, paired with other qualitative and quantitative data, has convinced us that the African American travel market presents an exciting business opportunity for Bermuda’s tourism industry – we believe our destination has the cultural touchpoints that make African American travelers feel right at home out here.”

In some ways, barriers to travel are similar for African American travelers as they are to other travelers. Twenty-eight percent said they were too busy to travel and 25 percent said they couldn’t afford it. However, African American travelers can sometimes be put-off from traveling due to racism. Fifteen percent said that concerns about racial profiling in a destination or airport play a role in their travel decisions.

According to Gloria and Solomon Herbert, publishers of Black Meetings and Tourism Magazine, “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.”

They added, “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. For Millennials of color, travel is being considered somewhat of a rite of passage.”

“Now this market is actively courted through marketing and promotions by prime destinations such as Baltimore, Bermuda, Miami, Virginia, and other key markets. Their outreach makes them attractive locations for African American leisure and business travelers.”

Destinations, hotels, and tour companies are quickly realizing the tourism potential of African American travelers, and hopefully, this study will make it clear to travel agents, too.

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