Tackling diversity in the travel industry

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In 2011, Evita Robinson set up Nomadness Travel Tribe, a community for millennial travellers of colour that now has over 22,000 members and is said to bring over US$50m to the travel industry. She gives her thoughts on how diversity in travel should be tackled
Evita Robinson

When Evita Robinson set up Nomadness Travel Tribe in 2011, travellers of colour lacked a community. Now the 35-year-old’s company has over 22,000 members worldwide and brings in over $50m to the travel industry.

Click.: Why did you set up Nomadness Travel Tribe?

Robinson: By 2011, I had been an expat in Japan, Thailand and France. It made me want to be part of a community of like-minded people that looked like me. I didn’t find that community online, and wanted to cultivate it. The travel industry wasn’t paying attention to us – they didn’t realise how deep our buying power was, and how hungry for these experiences we were. I set up Nomadness with 100 people and it snowballed.

Click.: As a community for millennial travellers, how important has social media been in growing Nomadness?

Robinson: It’s been essential. When I started I didn’t realise I was creating a business, I was simply creating a community. Instagram and Facebook has helped with this; they enabled us to pull off a 50 person meetup in Manhattan within the first few weeks. Black people travel – even if you don’t see them in mainstream media. Social media levels the playing field for story curation; it gives us the opportunity to own our own narrative and showcase our own experience without other people trying to remix it.

Click.: How should travel operators, such as hoteliers, tackle diversity?

Robinson: They should position themselves as an amplifier and a partner to us, instead of trying to tell our stories if that is not authentic to their brand. When people try to recreate the wheel that we’ve already created in the industry, they miss the mark.

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Click.: What can brands do to support a more inclusive approach to travel?

Robinson: Jump on board and use our communities. Last year we spearheaded Audacity Fest, which targeted millennial travellers of colour. I wanted it to be the antithesis to the New York Times Travel Show. We had conversations that a lot of bigger brands won’t have. Brands have a tendency to pull people. But if they partner with our events, they meet us where we are.

Click.: Who is leading the way in diversity in the travel industry?

Robinson: Visit Philadelphia did a great video marketing campaign that involved the band The Roots, who are from Philly. Video content is the way to go now – and this package showed the diversity of the city, and the activities on offer, in an engaging way. New Orleans did a campaign with the Caramel Curves, an all-female African American biker gang from the city. We need campaigns like this that shatter the monolithic stereotypes, while also showcasing what’s so good about the destination. It’s not about plastering people of colour all over the front – it’s about being representative of a more diverse demographic than we usually see.

Click.: What’s your vision for the future of the black traveller?

Robinson: Ownership. That’s comes in different forms, but particularly media. There’s going to be an acceleration in media ownership and us owning our stories and getting on bigger platforms that are either already established or that we create ourselves. We’re going to be travelling more, and especially venturing into Africa and telling those authentic stories that relate to the African American traveller. The next generation will travel more. Our kids will perpetuate this movement. Diversity isn’t a fad, and it’s going nowhere.

Hero image: credit to Nomadness Travel Tribe

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Social media has levelled the playing field for story curation, giving underrepresented travellers the opportunity to own their own narrative
Travel operators should act as an amplifier to travellers of colour, instead of trying to tell their stories
To tackle diversity, brands should get involved in the communities created by companies such as Nomadness, for example by partnering events
Campaigns should be engaging, and representative of a more diverse demographic