“Using Your Niche to Build an Engaged Community,” a Webinar by Black Travel Alliance (Review)

This past weekend, I attended the first webinar hosted by the Black Travel Alliance. If you’ve never heard of Black Travel Alliance, here’s a little background from their website:

Black Travel Alliance is a new group of Black Travel Content Creators from across the globe. Our three pillars of the community are alliance, amplification, and accountability. As travel authors, bloggers, broadcasters, journalists, photographers, podcasters, social media influencers, and vloggers, we unify to amplify. We also aim to provide training and business support to our members, as well as hold destinations and travel brands accountable on the issue of diversity in travel marketing and storytelling.”

Black Travel Alliance launched in early June which was, in my opinion, such perfect timing. Though travel has not been an overwhelming priority for most people, it did not diminish the call to action for travel companies, agencies, businesses in aviation, etc. to confront the lack of diversity and inclusivity of people of color, especially black people, in their demographics. Because traveling is both for leisure and business, we need that representation on the other end of the phone or that email chain, or leading our tours, or owning our hostels, Airbnbs, and other accommodations. We need people who understand what it is like to travel the world with a built-in disadvantage; not just for people of color, but for disabled people, fat people, people whose first language isn’t English, and so on. They started a hashtag, #pullupfortravel, that gave specific companies 72 hours to respond with their demographic make up within their companies. They got a lot of responses and I genuinely think it’s because their activism went beyond social media. Black Travel Alliance aims to really enact change, so it was a no-brainer for me to support this cause.
I wanted to include all of this background because it is extremely important to note not only why I follow them, but why you should be following them too. It’s one thing to create a space for black travelers, content creators, and their allies to form an alliance, but it’s another to come out of the gate with an immediate call to action and actually seek change. Yes, you did read that right–you can be an ally and still join the Black Travel Alliance. This is a mission I could get behind and one you should too. Be sure to follow their Instagram (linked at the beginning) to learn more!

Their first webinar was called “Using Your Niche to Build an Engaged Community” and the presenter was Gabby Beckford of http://www.packslight.com. Gabby is 25 and her niche is Gen Z travel. She talked about how when she first started, nobody was interested in hearing from the perspective of Gen Z because they are young, they haven’t experienced a lot, and they don’t have their own money to ultimately contribute to the industries that were initially ignoring them. However, I think we have all seen with the boom of the influencer and the rise of TikTok that the Gen Z voice is HIGH in demand. So if the interest in Gen Z is so in demand and saturated, how does Gabby effectively use this as a niche? She would tell you by being specific, consistent, and committed. When you go to her Instagram, it’s in her name and bio that she is a resource for Gen Z travel. When you go to her website, it is in her mission statement and further supported by the content on her page. If you want to know about what Gen Z is doing in the travel industry, you go to Gabby, and that’s the whole point and advantage of establishing a niche.

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Black Travel Summit x The Hostel Healer (Recap)

This past weekend, Black Travel Summit hosted another Instagram Live as part of their “BTS Travel Indoors” series. This episode featured Reis Armstrong, a.k.a. The Hostel Healer, who shared his journey to becoming a black expat in Melbourne, Australia. Though he is currently based in L.A. due to COVID, he has called Melbourne home for the last year and is looking forward to returning in January 2021. Reis’ story is a very relatable one rooted in his growing spiritual detachment from life here in the U.S. and desire to see and learn more abroad. He has been able to travel to many countries due to the affordability of hostels which has doubled as an opportunity to meet some of the most interesting people he’s ever met and establishing lifelong friendships. He even got his name, The Hostel Healer, from a British friend due to his offering of tarot card readings in these hostels as Reis is a psychic medium. Of all the great anecdotes he shared, I found it most important to share today the myths that he and the host, Anita, debunked about traveling and staying in hostels, especially for black people.
reis blog
I’ll start with hostels. Reis’ primary source for hostels is a site called HostelWorld which I have mentioned a couple of times here on the blog. HostelWorld is, as he described, the Yelp for finding hostels. It’s a database of hostels around the world complete with photos, amenities, dorming options, as well as an incredibly reliable rating system. I was first introduced to HostelWorld in 2017 when I traveled to Cabo. I have used it ever since and even used it in London in 2018 where I found an extremely affordable, clean, and centrally-located hostel–literally right next to the Tower of London. I wrote about the accommodation more in-depth in that trip’s blog post, but it was easily one of the best experiences I have had while traveling. Ultimately I was able to find it by not compromising the rating of the hostel. Though my Cabo trip wasn’t my first time staying in a hostel, I had heard first-person horror stories of hostels that were worse than anything I’d seen on TV due to choosing whatever was cheapest. But the good news is, hostels are not always what they are portrayed to be, and I think as traveling becomes more ‘mainstream’, more people are discovering that they are great options for accommodations. Here are some tips Reis had for first-timers:

  1. You get what you pay for: If you think “it can’t be that bad,” it’s probably worse.
  2. Never go under 7 stars: Reis himself doesn’t like to go below a 9 (8 for me), but obviously people have different priorities when they travel. It’s just better not to take the risk if you can afford it which you should definitely be able to if you’re choosing a hostel to begin with.
  3. Read the reviews: This I can personally attest to. To use London as an example again, I originally was tempted to go with a hostel in Shoreditch, a popular area for nightlife with a younger demographic. Seeing as it was my friend’s first time in London, I wanted her to be in the heart of everything, but an overwhelming amount of reviews about no hot water, dirty beds and showers, and thin walls reminded me to trust my gut. The HostelWorld reviews are truly honest.
  4. BRING SHOWER SANDALS: If you have attended any kind of camp or college, you know how important it is to have shower sandals. Under NO circumstances should you be traveling without them, especially in a hostel. Period.
  5. Try it AT LEAST once: Plain and simple, don’t knock hostels until you try them. I think this is generally a good attitude to have when approaching most things when traveling. 🙂
  6. *Bonus* Ladies, if you cannot afford a private room or just prefer to be around others, there is always an option for all-female dorms instead of mixed dorms.

A final note that both Reis and Anita talked about was how more people of color, especially black people, need to travel more. Representation is key when it comes to traveling because it can greatly alter our experiences. Obviously, traveling is a privilege. I have written and said this many times because traveling is an expense no matter which way you cut it. But if you want to, you can absolutely make traveling a possibility. Something he pointed out that I, too, first recognized when I stayed in a hostel was the abundance of young (18-19 year old) white people that are traveling. Sometimes it’s due to being on gap year and other times, it’s just because their parents sent them/allowed them to go with their friends. I was in total agreement that both of these options are things we should be encouraging with future generations/our own children, especially within communities of color.
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“STAY-CATION,” a Webinar by The Black Travel Summit (Review)

Long time, no…write? If you read my last blog post, you would know I intentionally took a hiatus given the current climate. After making the decision to position this blog as more travel-centered, I was obviously at an impasse for providing interesting and relevant content. Until now, that is. I should say that you shouldn’t expect any trips in the near future and instead, like everything else in the world, the content on this blog may have to pivot for the time being. Still, I am so excited to feel inspired and motivated again after a month and some change of feeling like I’d hit a dead end. In travel-related news, I tuned into a webinar hosted by The Black Travel Summit this past Saturday called “STAY-CATION” and wanted to share my thoughts with you all!!

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