By Ryan Velez
Despite the sentiment from many black people that they would like to make the trip, and African nations that would love the money and attention that tourism provides, it’s simply not commonplace. Several reasons may explain why, and both sides may not be doing all they need to get more African-Americans to travel to Africa.
On the American side, there’s one major issue to start—many Americans, black or otherwise, don’t know much about Africa. Much of what is taken is from mass media, which tends to focus only on a small selection of topics, the majority of which are more likely to scare people away than draw them in.
In addition, Africa has little social and business ties to America compared to other countries, and this is reflected in the cultural presence it has. Very little African history is taught to American students, and African art, film, music and food are difficult to find. All these factors together mean that many young African-Americans beginning to find their global presence may have other countries at the forefront of their minds through sheer osmosis.
It’s not all about ignorance, though. Many African nations can make steps to appeal to American tourism, but there are two main factors impeding the process: a lack of effort in developing the U.S. tourism market, and an overemphasis on safari tourism that is eclipsing other options.
Greg Gross, Travel Editor of The Moderate Voice, cites travel trade shows as an example. At ITB Berlin in Germany, one of the largest trade shows in the world, almost 50 African countries were represented by government tourism ministries, private tourism boards, tour operators and travel agencies. At the seven shows in the U.S. in Unicomm’s Travel and Adventure Show series, he only saw one. While there are many attractions that African-Americans might enjoy, no one is telling them about it. In fact, both the African-American communities and African communities have more of a rapport with Europe than each other.
So while many African-Americans may need to educate themselves on what there is to do and see in Africa beyond a safari, African countries need to do their part to help bridge the gap. Appearing at trade shows as well as reaching out to African-American trade professionals and media are key in order to develop a proper relationship. With $48 billion spent by African-American travelers annually, it would certainly be a mutually beneficial one.