Safety, acceptance, and security is not always a major concern when it comes to traveling abroad for most white, heterosexual people. However, for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ explorers, the world isn’t exactly their oyster.
From the early-to-mid 1900s, Black American travelers relied on the green book that listed gas stations, restaurants, hotels… etc. across the U.S. that would be safe for them to visit in a Jim Crow-era country.
Eric Martin reached back into the green book’s tradition by creating Black & Abroad, a cultural collective dedicated to redefining world experiences for the modern Black traveler.
“We started it as a result of just not seeing representation for the black traveler,” Martin says.
“Back when we started in 2015, black travelers spent upwards of 50 billion dollars annually on travel. That number increased from 2015 to 2019, where it was… almost 110 billion dollars. So our market share was rapidly increasing, but the representation just wasn't there. We're talking about mainstream travel imagery. We're talking about just seeing ourselves reflected in some of the marketing, the Google results.”
Black & Abroad initially started as a blog and a safe space where Black travelers could share their experiences from different countries. “There was not much information out there about what it would be like to travel to some of these amazing places as a person of color,” says Martin. It organically expanded into a company that was hosting group trips, with a focus on trips to Africa. As DNA tests became more popular, Martin says that many of his customers were able to trace their lineage back to specific African countries. “As a result, we've had a boom in business when it comes to group travel and Africa became the most popular destination,” he says. “As you can imagine, you go into a country that you know that you're from and experience it for the first time... mind blowing, completely mind blowing.”
While COVID-19 has temporarily shut down group travel through Black & Abroad, Martin looks forward to resuming trips again in 2022. In the meantime, the company is focusing on virtual and small, local events to try to bring people together. “We're governed by three important principles. Explore, embrace, empower,” Martin says. “Explore the world, embrace other cultures and empower the community. And we've thus far, we've done a great job in remaining true to that.”
Accustomed to adversity, Black and LGBTQ+ people have utilized their own travel resources for decades.
Historically, LGBTQ+ travelers also relied on texts similar to the green book in regards to travel safety. Bob Damron’s Address Book (1960) was used in an era when a majority of states outlawed same-sex relations both in public and private. Damron’s travel guides helped gays men find bars, bookstores, restaurants across the U.S. that were discreetly geared toward gay men.
Recalling an uncomfortable stay in Barcelona with his partner, Matthieu Jost wanted to make sure his community felt welcomed and safe while traveling. “[LGBTQ+ people] are [...] scared to find a place that will not be welcomed to them,” Jost says. “I want everyone in my community to feel safe. And this is why we created misterb&b.”
A platform dedicated to safe-space travel for LGBTQ+ people, misterb&b is a travel booking hub. “You will be able to find different types of accommodation like private rooms and entire places, villas and hotels around the world, and we are offering some specific functionalities for you to feel safe, like reviews, like ID verification,” he says.
“We believe that our impact on the travel industry... that we were able to create a new market. We didn't tap into something already existing, but we created something brand new, something super specific and exclusive. We are offering something superstrong that is a connection between the LGBTQ community,” he says.