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  • Writer's picturemarty_sandiego

Dear travel brands & tourism boards, it’s time to start preparing your Black history month campaign

It’s October 2020, and Black History Month is only three months away, so the time to start preparing is NOW! Last year, I remember being appalled when a major travel brand waited until January 29 to reach out to Black influencers for a Black History Month campaign. You read that right, January 29 — two days before February — and they expected everyone to jump at the opportunity as if the exposure of being on their social channel was enough that we just couldn’t pass it up. Some content creators declined, hoping they’d understand our value and letting them know BLACK CONSUMERS AREN’T AN AFTERTHOUGHT. Some content creators came to their rescue, as it was clear they were desperate and our compensation would finally match our value as they were pressed for time. While others decided to work with them as they thought maybe it’d be the start of a beautiful relationship, but after February, we never heard from them again.

You see, this brand only reached out for appearances , they didn’t really care about our travel narratives. They didn’t appreciate our amazing storytelling coupled with beautiful photos, and they didn’t take the time to carefully curate an authentic campaign. They weren’t concerned with building out something impactful to evoke emotion, resonate with, and reach new markets of Black travelers, who in America spend more than $63 billion annually, and if we’re including Black travelers overseas that number doubles . Instead they were worried about looking a certain way to the world, especially since they’re one of the largest travel brands that employs Black professionals, and are headquartered in a predominantly Black city. Dear brands, DON’T BE LIKE THEM.

After most brands posted that black square on Tuesday June 2, they should've made Black History Month a priority right then. How can you proclaim Black lives matter but never show it, never celebrate it in a unique way, and have no internal staff that’s Black? We were annoyed with the sudden constant posting of Black travelers all of a sudden and knew eventually it would stop because our trauma was trending. Some brands even took their Black square down thinking we wouldn’t notice, BUT WE DID. So now, here’s your opportunity to make a game plan and knock it out of the park. Every March is Women’s History Month, every June is Pride Month and brands plan accordingly, so keep that same energy for February.

There’s nothing Black people don’t do, there’s nowhere we don’t go, there’s no industry we aren’t a part of, so do the research and tap in! Spend money from your budget to hire Black creatives to capture or tell their stories. Task your marketing team on creating campaigns to highlight stories that are untold! DO NOT TELL US ABOUT MARTIN LUTHER KING, ROSA PARKS, AND MALCOLM X. We know those narratives, eliminate tokenism this February!

If you’re an airline, speak about James Banning, the first African American pilot to fly coast to coast. If you’re an automobile company speak about Homer B.Roberts, a true American hero, the Black car salesman who sold Black people cars from Kansas City when no one else would. He is the reason Black families started cross country trips and used The Negro Motorist Green Book. If you’re a hotel brand speak about some of the powerful Black owned accommodations that kept Black people safe when white hotels wouldn’t allow them to stay. And talk about NABHOOD (the National Association of Black Hotels Owners, Operators and Developers), the organization created to give Black hoteliers and B&B owners a community to help grow their businesses. If you’re an airport, talk about the first Black owned airport ‘The Columbia Air Center’ or the 13 CEOs who currently run airports like Brian Francis at Oakland International. If you’re a DMO(destination marketing organization),CVB (convention or visitor bureau , or tourism board add the stories into your itineraries and put them on the homepage of your websites. Tell the untold stories of the Black people in your destinations. Tell the truth about the treatment of Black people and how you can still see the long-term effects of discrimination today, reinforce that you welcome everybody and want to share Black stories.

You see the list goes on and on, and quite frankly I expect greatness and no excuses this February. I just gave you ideas off the top of my head of people you may have never heard of, so just imagine what it could be like in February if you start planning now . Good campaigns take time, nothing can be done overnight, so if the Black community is truly one you want to reach, take Black History Month seriously and start now. We’ll be watching.

With love, and the commitment to change the face of tourism forever, yours truly,

Martinique Lewis, Diversity in travel consultant and creator of the ABC Travel Greenbook, the number #1 resource connecting travelers to the African Diaspora globally!

P.S. Want to discuss you Black History Month campaign strategy? Set up time on my calendar here .

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