February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada and, while it shouldn’t be the only month of the year to celebrate Black history and culture in your destination, it’s definitely a time to turn up the volume on these stories.
While some destination marketing organizations (DMOs) feel they don’t have any new or interesting stories to add to the conversation around Black History Month, in reality, every destination has compelling stories from Black communities if you know where to look.
Black History Month is also a time for your destination to show support for the BIPOC community and make it clear that you welcome all travelers regardless of their backgrounds, so don’t let your lack of Black landmarks stop you from celebrating!
To help you honor Black History Month, we‘ve compiled a list of ways DMOs can tell stories of Black history and culture that will resonate with your audience year-round.
Highlight activism in your area
Show-off how your community is taking an active role in supporting the Black community. Note: This doesn’t necessarily mean sharing images or videos of protests or marches (although these events often lead to great visuals!).
Another way of highlighting local activism could be promoting an event that raises money for Black communities. A great example of this is Portland, Oregon’s “Black Love Day”, created as an alternative to Valentine’s Day to celebrate the power of love in Black culture. For even more inspo, check out Travel Portland’s other Black History Month events on their website.
Consider content partnerships
While you work towards including more diverse voices and imagery into your content, think about approaching other brands where vibrant Black travel communities already exist.
Take Green Book Global for example, a Black travel review and trip planning website that also includes helpful content like city guides. Sharing reviews of your destination from sites like these is priceless, as these reviews come from an engaged community of travelers who care about helping other BIPOC travelers plan their trips.
Another great resource is Black & Abroad’s Black Elevation Map, an interactive feature that uses data to help travelers plan trips that support Black-owned businesses and include stops at historical markers.
Tip: Destinations could help promote stories featured in sources like the Black Elevation Map and also use them to source ideas for stories in your communities.
Connect the past to the present
By now, many DMOs have realized that simply sharing a Martin Luther King Jr. quote on social media is not going to convince travelers that their destination is committed to change. Travelers are also interested in learning more than what museums or monuments they can visit – they want to know the history, people, and stories behind these landmarks that bring them to life in the present day.
Take inspiration from Visit Philly’s 2017 documentary-style travel video series “We Got You: Philly by Tarik” hosted by Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter of Philadelphia-based band The Roots. Trotter connects his Philadelphia roots to show viewers what the city has to offer Black travelers.
Another great source of inspiration is National Geographics “Into the Depths” podcast. The series follows a group of Black divers who are dedicated to finding and helping document slave ship wrecks, many of which had been forgotten, and remembering the estimated 12.5 million Africans forced to make the Middle Passage.
Tip: Talk to Black residents and local historians about hidden stories from the past that are being rediscovered in your area.
Talk to Black residents about how tourism helps
Visit Baltimore President and CEO, Al Hutchinson, spoke to PCMA about conversations that DMOs should be having with Black residents about issues that are impacting them and how tourism can be a force for good.
“We’ve been talking about equity or inequity when you’re looking at job opportunities or partnering with other people of color in the industry,” Hutchinson said during the interview. “But along this line, environmental equity is extremely important as well, especially in a city like Baltimore, which is a minority majority city — a 63-percent African American population.”
Hutchinson said the travel industry can help these communities in ways like cleaning up their neighborhoods and advocating for broadband service so they are connected.
“We’ve got one shot at this, and we can’t do it by ourselves — destination marketing organizations should be at the table with economic development, with housing, with the arts and cultural community,” he said. “All of us should be really in this together to change the outlook of our citizenship. We want them to see that where they live, where they work, and where they play, they have hope and opportunity.”
Tip: Create a resident task force that regularly meets with your DMO and other community leaders to advise on how tourism could give back and build opportunities.
Share these stories year-round
If there’s one thing DMOs should be focused on when telling Black stories, it’s show, not tell.
Try things like pass the mic where you let Black content creators takeover your Instagram to talk about their work and personal experiences. You don’t need to have millions of followers to do this. The goal is to educate your audience that cares about your brand, regardless of its size, and to commit to doing this all year.
Tip: Make space each month in your editorial calendar to amplify Black voices across your social media.
The Black consumer segment alone is made up of more than 41 million people with $1.4 trillion in buying power, according to marketing agency Refuel Agency. Those statistics only show a fraction of the people who want to support Black-owned businesses and brands that make an effort to improve diversity both within their organizations and in their marketing campaigns.
Travelers increasingly vote with their wallets. For instance, nearly two-thirds of travelers (65%) said they are more willing to book accommodation that has policies focused on diversity and inclusion, according to a June 2021 Expedia Group survey of travelers in eight countries including the U.S., UK, Australia, and Germany.
Also consider that one in four Black people in the United States are members of Generation Z, or those born between the mid to late 1990s and early 2010s, according to Pew Research Center. This group will increasingly gain more spending power to travel and will look for content to assure them your destination is welcoming.
Check out this list of BIPOC content creators to follow and collaborate with to help make your marketing more inclusive beyond February.