Marketing to Black Travelers: What the Travel Industry Is Doing to Get Your Dollar

Article excerpt

African American travelers, with an estimated $25 billion in travel spending power, are a rapidly growing market that is increasingly gaining the attention of the $440 billion U.S. travel industry. Over the past several years, many cities and states have launched multicultural tourism divisions to cater to this growing niche. Now private businesses have also taken note and they are creating packages and tours, in partnership with tourism agencies, to reach many more African American travelers.

Philadelphia's Multicultural Affairs Congress (MAC) recently partnered with American Airlines to create the carrier's first "Ethno Tour," which will develop packages targeted to black travelers. "As the shift in the population occurs over the next 15 years, it is clear that our customer base will shift. We need to start developing products that appeal to this growing market. We intend to extract as much business as we can," explains Lou Phillips of American Airlines. To that end, the airline's new Urban and Community Relations division will pair up with MAC in its "Share The Heritage" campaign to create a tour complete with accommodations, travel and sightseeing excursions into Philadelphia's black sites.

American is also seeking to build relationships with African American corporations, travel agencies and meeting planners. Via its PAArtners Program, nonprofit organizations, such as religious and community groups and professional organizations, will earn transportation credits when members use the airline. These credits can then be used by the organizations for business-related travel. American recently signed a three-year deal with The Links Inc., an African American professional women's organization, as its carrier.

But they're not alone. US Airways (formerly USAir) has been targeting the African American market through advertising and sponsorship activities over the past two years, according to US Airways spokesperson David Castelveter. …