Everyone plays 'spin the globe' as a child. It's fun because you win every single time. Your finger stops the earth mid-rotation and, based off of what little bit you know about geography, you decide whether or not the spot your finger landed on is worth a visit. That game has always been more of a goal of mine. I've always been curious about different places, cultures, languages, cuisines, and people.
So, I studied two foreign languages in college and spent my junior year abroad. Shortly after earning my Bachelor's degree in French and Italian, I received travel planning accreditation from IATA - a globally recognized Travel and Tourism industry organization. Out of college, I got an internship that turned into a full-time position in the travel department of a concierge service.
Largely due to the lack of diversity (and the resulting foolishness), I realized about six months in that an exit plan was in order. From the planners, to the clients and the hotel brands to the "local" restauranteurs - just about all parties involved were predominantly owned and operated by people sans melanin making the calls on where people should travel and why. I once sat in on a meeting with an American business owner going over his vision to improve and modernize a Caribbean island to "American" standards in an effort to create a luxury experience for travelers. While my colleagues sat around the table in awe and appreciation, I curled my face at what sounded like contemporary imperialism and neocolonialism. This mindset of making over another culture so that it's palatable for the entitled American traveler did not sit will with me. This was not what I thought I'd signed up for.
So, I gladly left that situation with two questions to answer: Why doesn't this industry extend itself to inclusion? What can I do to be a part of the solution?
Answering the first question is tough. I mean, there are A LOT of us out here buying plane tickets, booking hotels and AirBnB's, dining, going on tours and excursions, shopping, and so on. However, those aren't the statistics you hear about in regards to our spending power. For example, statistics about the billion dollar Black hair care or athletic shoe industry are made readily available to the point that they're almost considered common knowledge. Major companies pour incredible amounts of time and money into figuring out how to hold on to a piece of our pocket within those industries.
The travel industry, domestically outputting hundreds of billions of dollars yearly, is currently booming with generations of travelers seeking insight and assistance from professionals. However, you'll be hard-pressed to find any statistics that touch on racial trends within the travel industry. My theory is that people of color are traveling just as often as whites. Which means, because this isn't an industry that can cash out on us any more than any other group of people, appealing and catering to us isn't a major concern. Moreover, just like anything else, whenever diversity isn't explicitly mentioned, whiteness is assumed. Definitely not helping that "black and brown people don't travel" myth.
My answer to the second question is Prism Travel. Because I don't want to be just another travel planner or wanderlust social media page, it was important to me to create an experience that connects and unites people of color. So, Prism is not just about travel. It's about the much-needed networking and unity that our communities thrive on.
Prism Travel organizes trips for people of color wanting to see the world in a group setting. Each experience is an opportunity to travel somewhere you've never been and make new friends.
I'm so very excited to say that Prism's first trip will take place in January 2017. The destination and details will be released in Fall 2016 with registration to follow. That said, I'd love to know where your proverbial fingers land on the spinning globe. Please feel free to comment below or complete the form here.