Tag Archives: NY Times Travel Show

Black America & Africa: Travel’s Great Divide

E D I T O R I A L

When it comes to Africa travel and the African-American travel market, it takes two to miss a golden opportunity.

On one side of the Atlantic, you can find a lot of Black Americans who say they’d love to see Africa someday. On the other side, you find a lot of African nations looking for more tourism that would love to welcome them.

In between, you find…not much.

Black Americans are traveling the world in growing numbers, but the numbers traveling to the Mother Continent are nowhere near what they could or should be — and the reasons why have nothing whatever to do with ebola.

So why haven’t the two sides hooked up in the name of travel and tourism?

On the whole, we Americans — and Black Americans, in particular — really don’t know Africa. What little we do know, we tend to draw from the crisis du jour menu served up daily in mainstream media and the world’s single greatest source of misinformation: “I heard.”

YouTube boasts a whole collection of videos devoted to asking people what they know about Africa, including African-Americans at HBCUs like Howard University. The answers range from head-shaking to embarrassing to downright cringeworthy.

A TWO-SIDED GAP
Africa has always been an afterthought in the United States. Our social and business ties to the Mother Continent are sparse compared with the rest of the world.

America’s schools have never taught kids about Africa in the same way it teaches about all things European. And while African food, art, music, film are global staples, you find precious little representation of any of that in US mass media.

The gap of knowledge and understanding between Africans and African-Americans is huge. But the blame for that gap cannot be laid entirely on this side of the Atlantic. There are two uncomfortable realities here:

  1. The nations of Africa have put too little effort into developing the US market.
  2. Safari travel in Africa has been over-marketed and over-promoted, to the detriment of African travel and tourism overall.

You find the best evidence of the first point at travel trade shows.

The biggest ones are in Europe, and ITB Berlin in Germany is by far the biggest. We’re talking 10,000 exhibitors from 185 countries — and about 50 of those countries are African. Government tourism ministries, private tourism boards, tour operators, travel agencies. Africa represents at ITB Berlin.

WHERE ARE THE AFRICANS?
Here in the United States, Unicomm annually puts on the Travel and Adventure Show series — seven travel trade expositions in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego and San Francisco.

The perfect chance for African travel providers and tour operators to connect with travel agents and potential visitors here in the States.

The total number of African tourism bodies, public or private, represented at those seven shows: One. Rwandan Tourism, with whom I’ll be meeting this weekend at the LA show in Long Beach, CA.

The grand-daddy of US travel expos, the oldest and largest single show in the country, is the NY Times Travel Show. Their African exhibitors? Nine, maybe. Out of 55 sovereign African nations…nine.

Then, there’s the whole safari thing. Pick any ten people at random and tell them you’re contemplating a trip to Africa. At least seven out of ten will ask you: “Are you going on a safari?”

More likely, it’ll be all ten.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with safari travel. Done right, with respect for the environment and the local people who depend on it, it can be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life. Small wonder that safari travel is the first thing that comes to mind among Western travelers.

The problem is that it tends to be the only thing that comes to mind.

NOT JUST SAFARIS

Talk to Black Americans, especially younger ones, who have an interest in Africa, and you’ll find out that their interest often reach far beyond wildlife. They want to know about the history and heritage — not just as it relates to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, but what happened before and what came after. They want a taste of Africa’s many cultures. They want to check out the music, the food, the styles. Everything.

And Africa has a mind-boggling amount of attractions to offer them in all of those areas. But Africa’s nations aren’t reaching out to tell them about it.

On the whole, the African and the African-American are much more culturally attuned to Europe than they are to each other, no surprise given our respective histories. And it shows in our disconnect when it comes to travel and tourism.

We’re like two blindfolded men sitting in a darkened room, each waiting for the other to get up and turn the lights on.

If Black Americans are going to take Africa seriously as a destination — and if Africa wants a bigger piece of the roughly $48 billion annual African-American travel market — that needs to change.

On our side, we need to insist that our schools and our news media do a better job of teaching us about Africa. And if they refuse to do it, then we need to start learning on our own. We need to reach out to the African expat communities we have in this country and start making some connections. They can teach us much, if we’re willing to listen and learn.

Meanwhile, Africa’s decisionmakers in the travel industry need to reach out to potential African-American visitors in the same way that they reach over to Europe. They need to show up at the trade shows here. They need to advertise on Black American media. They need to work with Black American expats in African countries and African-American travel professionals over here.

International travel markets don’t build themselves.

It’s time to close this great divide.

Greg Gross is the Publisher/Sr. Editor of “I’m Black and I Travel!,” and the owner of the Trips by Greg travel agency, specializing in cultural and heritage travel worldwide.

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the IBIT TRAVEL DIGEST 3.11.12

A roundup of the good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media.

© Christina Deridder | Dreamstime.com

KENYA: GOING BEYOND BUSH AND BEACH TOURISM
I’ve been saying for awhile now that there’s a lot more to Africa than just exotic wildlife. It looks as if the folks in charge of Kenya’s tourism agree.

According to media reports out of Nairobi, the Kenya Tourism Board is abandoning its focus on beach and safaris. Now, they’re looking to diversify their approach, touting the East African nation as a destination for multiple forms of upscale travel — among them cultural tourism, eco-tourism and sports travel.

Kenya also is looking to raise its profile as a prime African location for MICE — traveltradespeak for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions.

(South Africa is the Mother Continent’s current leader for MICE tourism. Looks as if Kenya wants to break off a chunk of that lucrative market for themselves.)

All this is being done with an eye toward drawing more tourism from Europe and the KTB started pushing this updated concept of Kenyan tourism at the International Travel Bourse show last weekend in Berlin.

Kenya continues to draw international visitors despite its military clashes with al Shabab militias from neighboring Somalia.

For more on this story, check out this report from theNairobi Star.

“LOVE BOAT” TO THE BONEYARD
According to USA Today, the cruise ship that served as the floating set for the TV series “The Love Boat” ‐ and may well have helped launch the modern cruise industry as we now know it — is sailing toward an inglorious end.

The vessel formerly known as the Pacific Princess, has been sold to a demolition company in Turkey, where she’ll be cut up for scrap.

Apparently, she’s been laid up at a dock in Genoa, Italy for nearly a decade.

You can read the USA Today story here.

Those old enough to remember the show also will recall how huge we thought the ship was. In reality, she only held a maximum of about 600 passengers. Today’s mega-cruisers can hold more than that on one deck.

And now, here’s this week’s Digest:

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AIR
from the New York Times
Is there any way to make airplane food taste good? The airlines are trying everything — and I do mean everything.

from the New York Times
A couple of Sea World penguins get the celebrity treatment aboard a Delta flight. Not only do penguins fly, but in this case, they flew First Class. The humans loved it. VIDEO

from USA Today
The skies haven’t been that friendly of late for babies and parents. In one instance, TSA screeners denied boarding to a nursing mother. In another, JetBlue booted an entire family off a flight after their toddler went to DEFCON-5 with her tantrum.

LAND
from the New York Times
From how to save money on whale-watching in Hawaii to why your next pair of contact lenses should come from Thailand. A roundup of tips from the recent NY Times Travel Show.

from Budget Travel
A vacation rental site adds insurance to protect vacation home renters from nasty surprises.

from Frommer’s
Buy fragile things when you travel? Here’s how to pack them to survive the trip home. SLIDESHOW

SEA
from USA Today
The Costa Allegra, the container ship-turned-cruise ship that went adrift in pirate-infested waters off the East African coast after an engine fire, has probably sailed her last cruise. Her owners, Carnival Cruise Lines, say she will be sold or scrapped.

from USA Today
Another bit of fallout from the loss of the Costa Allegra — beleaguered Costa is cancelling its Red Sea cruises this year. The ship that was to be used in the Red Sea, the Costa Voyager, is being shifted to take Allegra’s place.

from USA Today
Carnival Destiny, the first of Carnival’s mega-sized cruise ships, is going to get one of the biggest makeovers ever done on a cruiser. By the time she re-emerges, even her name will be different.

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AFRICA
from Capital FM (Kenya) via allAfrica.com
Buoyed by what is sees as an improving global economy, British Airways is adding flight between London and the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

from The Chronicle (Ghana) via allAfrica.com
Aviation officials in Ghana say their citizens are being subjected to artificially high airfares, antiquated equipment and disrespectful treatment by flight attendants aboard foreign airlines. Accra is threatening retaliation if the foreign carriers don’t “come correct.”

from This Day (Nigeria) via allAfrica.com
Four years ago, Lagos welcomed the arrival of the first yacht hotel anywhere in Africa. Four years later, the Sunborn Yacht Hotel is a floating white elephant, yet to welcome a paying guest. PICS and VIDEO

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AMERICAS/CARIBBEAN
from The Associated Press via The Grio
In New York’s Harlem, the phenomenon of gospel tourism is increasingly filling the pews of dwindling black congregations with white European tourists. It’s proving to be a mixed blessing.

from Budget Travel
How well do you know New Orleans? Test your knowledge of the NOLA with this quiz.

from the San Francisco Chronicle
Mention the Amazon and the first place you’re likely to think of is Brazil. Add Peru to that list. Especially if the prospect of exploring the Amazon via a small luxury cruise appeals to you.

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ASIA/PACIFIC
from Voice of America
One year after being rocked by a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, Japan is still trying to get tourists to come back.

from the Los Angeles Times
In Vietnam, the city of Hanoi is making a name for itself among international travelers looking for the best in Vietnamese cuisine.

from the Los Angeles Times
Another sign of growing affluence in China — a domestic wine industry.

from Your Singapore
Remember when Singapore was known for its staid, ultra-conservative lifestyle? The St. James Power Station is an old coal-fired powerplant converted into the ultimate nightlife venue — ten different bars and live music venues under one roof. (Wikipedia lists 11.) So much for staid.

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EUROPE
from TravPr.com
“Paris pour les femmes” means Paris for women. A European tour company is offering luxury tours of Paris—exclusively for women.

from The Guardian (London UK)
“Foodie” may be a dirty word these days among the travelerati, but if you’ve got a thing for both rustic Italian countryside and great Italian food, there are some places to stay in rural Italy that can satisfy both cravings.

from The Guardian (London UK)
And speaking of Italy, virtually every hotel in Venice is on an island, but this one has an island pretty much to itself, well away from the tourist mobs.

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