The Big Business of Making Personal Connections with Diverse Travelers

According to the most recent U.S. Census, 44% of millennials identify as a minority race or ethnicity—including the 14% of millennials who identify as African American/Black, making them the largest of millennial minority groups. For the last several years, the emergence and growth of Black travel communities have reshaped the image of Black millennial travel, and their impact, through buying power and social currency, cannot be understated.

To discover and quantify the opportunities and priorities of this influential and underserved segment of the travel industry, DigitasLBi commissioned a custom online survey, conducted by Harris Poll, of Black millennial travelers. We heard from 1,011 African American/Black U.S. adults ages 20 to 36 who prioritize travel and are at least somewhat involved in booking their own travel.

There are nearly 5 million Black millennial travelers in the U.S.—and yet, according to our first-of-its-kind study, few brands are engaging with them on a personal level.

Diverse travelers bring diverse needs and motivations to the table when it comes to choosing where, how and why to travel. There are nearly 5 million Black millennial travelers in the U.S.—and yet, according to our first-of-its-kind study, few brands are engaging with them on a personal level. The findings reveal an audience of avid travelers—94% of Black millennial travelers have taken a personal trip in the past two years and 76% have traveled in the past six months—who are eager to be engaged by brands that speak to them directly and authentically. Below are key findings, along with actionable takeaways for marketers.

Acceptance and Safety are Important Considerations When Booking

  • 24% of Black millennial travelers have experienced racial discrimination while booking travel, while 29% have experienced racial discrimination in the past two years while traveling.
  • 80% of Black millennial travelers say they are more likely to plan a trip somewhere they believe will be accepting of their race/ethnicity.
  • 38% say safety—as it relates to their race/ethnicity—is one of the most important factors when booking trip accommodations.
    • This is particularly true among women, with 43% of Black female millennial travelers saying safety is a primary factor when booking accommodations (vs. 31% of Black male millennial travelers).

 Customized Messaging = Engagement

  • 72% of Black millennial travelers say that when a brand acknowledges their racial/ethnic identity, it makes them want to book with that brand.
  • 56% would pay more if messaging was more relevant to their personal identity:
    • of those, 47% would pay $100 or more per night.
    • 22% would pay $200 more per night.
  • 64% of those who have traveled internationally in the past two years would increase spend if messaging was more relevant to their personal identity.
  • 76% say they would book more with a brand they’ve previously used if they received more personal identity-relevant messaging.

Takeaways for brands

Make them feel safe. Our study shows that safety is one of the most important factors for Black millennial travelers when booking trip accommodations, particularly for women. Especially now, given recent headlines and events, it is critical to make them feel safe, comfortable, and appreciated while they are traveling—and also convey this in your marketing and in the booking experience. Photos of and verified testimonials from other Black and ethnically-diverse travelers can help this audience feel comfortable and culturally accepted.

Stand for diversity. Brands that reflect and champion diversity not only in their communications but also in their values, their organizational leadership, and the people they hire can make a clear statement to Black millennial travelers that they are committed to providing them with a positive travel experience.

Speak to this audience in ways that make them feel relevant and connected. Use spokespeople and ambassadors who authentically represent the Black community. Leverage multicultural targeted media, influential sites, podcasts, and social media to connect with Black millennials in unique and authentic ways.

Use the power of peer influence. Encourage good reviews and ratings. Our survey shows that seeing positive reviews from travelers of similar race/ethnicity or who have similar interests helps Black millennial travelers make quicker decisions when booking. Brands can establish credibility by thoughtfully engaging influencers and everyday travelers within existing, large-scale, global travel communities. In addition, sourcing authentic (and real-time) feedback from Black millennial travelers can create opportunities for brand or product innovation, while building preference and loyalty.

By meaningfully connecting with Black millennial travelers, brands have the opportunity to win their business, and their loyalty.

Najla Haddad

SVP, Marketing at DigitasLBi

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