Black Americans now spend $48 billion a year on travel and are among the fastest growing segments in the U.S., according to Mandala Research. And the strongest influencer of that trend is black millennial women.

#BlackGirlMagic—a social media movement cultivated by black women to celebrate one another’s accomplishments—influences mainstream America and is estimated to drive black spending power to $1.5 trillion by 2021, according to The Nielsen Company report, African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic.

One problem: the outdoor and travel industries aren’t marketing to black people.

“Black people like the outdoors and educational experiences, but we’re not seeing ourselves in the marketing for these programs,” said Evita Robinson, founder of Nomadness Travel Tribe, a social media and travel group that empowers women of color.

As the outdoor industry steps beyond a dialogue about diversity and strategically builds partnerships that champion inclusivity, marketing to black women should be a top priority.

Here are six actionable ways for outdoor brands to market to women of color.

Evita Robinson, founder of Nomadness Travel Tribe, at a TED TALK

Evita Robinson, founder of Nomadness Travel Tribe, speaking at a TED TALKS event.

1. Know the community

African American females are trendsetters and brand loyalists who support ecological sustainability. According to the aforementioned Nielson report, 59 percent of black women pay more for products that are environmentally safe, and 74 percent recognize that global warming is a serious threat.

The first step to start marketing to women of color, said Robinson, is for outdoor industry brands and retailers to research the subset communities within their selected target market.

For instance, Nomadness members include 20,000 black and brown travelers and expatriates from around the world. Eighty percent are female and millennial (25 to 45 years old). The travel group's outdoor adventures include everything from whitewater rafting in the Dominican Republic to hiking in Nicaragua, sailing on a catamaran in the Turks and Caicos, and Running of the Bulls in Spain.

Other organizations for adventurous black women include Girls Going Global, Bucket List Living, Travel Noire, and Oneika the Traveller.

“Marketing practices shouldn’t be same with two different age brackets," Robinson said. "What will work on a 17-year-old will not work on a 45-year-old and shouldn’t."

2. Initiate conversation

Start a dialogue with those communities and approach the brand founders. Pitch a marketing campaign, or an advertisement to make your company visible to those members.

“It is seen as a positive when [brands] take the initiative to approach [black and diverse] communities,” Robinson said. “Say, ‘Diversity is a priority in our company’s DNA, and we want you to be a part of it.’ There’s a sense of humility that’s endearing and gives way for honest, open conversation as to how [partnership] can be maneuvered,” she said.

Prioritize both sides of the coin: Ask how the partnership can be mutually beneficial.

“You can propose sponsored posts or a blog write-up to showcase a particular vendor or activity in exchange for the facility or experience,” said Empowerment Coach Sonjia Mackey, founder of the Bucket List Living (@bucketlistbeasts), an adventure travel group for black women and a spin-off of Nomadness.

Sonjia Mackey paragliding near Santiago, Chile.

Empowerment Coach Sonjia Mackey, founder of the Bucket List Living (@bucketlistbeasts), paragliding near Santiago, Chile.

3. Authentic marketing

Connect with people of color in your company’s region. Ask what it’s like to be a person of color—who travels, recreates, or adventures—in that specific destination. Furthermore, invite them to do a focus group for your product or marketing development.

“For outdoor campaigns, find and incorporate historical references that would emotionally resonate with blacks,” Robinson said.

We still have a long way to go in the outdoor industry, but a number of leaders say we are getting better at diversity. In this opinion piece, Yoon Kim agrees.

Also, authentically represent the experience, but be truly inclusive. “[The marketing] should not just be diverse with black women—put everyone in there. Show that it’s not just a one-off,” Robinson said.

4. Celebrate cultural nuances

Nomadness members are reluctant to join guided outdoor experiences that include 90-percent white travelers.

“There is a disconnect with cultural nuances of how we travel, and the things we would worry about,” said Robinson. As an operator, find solutions to bridge those differences.

For instance, gift bags for a glamping, camping, or overnight excursion should include natural, ethnic hair care products. African Americans contributed $54 million—86 percent of the total dollars spent—to the ethnic hair and beauty market in 2017, The Nielsen Company reported.

“[Black women] can’t have shampoo that forms suds, which strips our hair, because it’s porous and isn’t oily. We need moisturizer in our hair everyday,” said Robinson.

In general, steer clear of “love and hip-hop speak,” in marketing, which can feed offensive stereotypes.

5. Prioritize hiring practices

If there’s no one of color in a position in the company, that’s the first problem, according to Robinson, who recommends hiring a black person to the human resources department.

Partner with people of color who work on the local tourism board or with a marketing group, tour operator, or brand in the industry. They will know where local black communities exist and will understand cultural nuances that are overlooked by outsiders.

“If you’re targeting diverse markets, you absolutely need those cultures in the levels of management that approve campaigns,” said Mackey. “You don’t get kudos if you miss the mark with your message and end up with social media nightmare,” she said, and pointed to recent snafus by Dove and H&M.

Bucket List Living travelers jet-skiing in Sri Lanka.

Bucket List Living travelers jet skiing in Sri Lanka.

6. Establish trust

Safety is a key priority for black women. They want to understand the threats in the local environment—such as wild animals—and to share mutual respect with their adventure companions, said Robinson.

“We want to trust the community that we’re with and know that we’re welcome, not just tolerated,” said Robinso, who suggested that marketing materials incorporate the voice of African American female influencers that the community knows and trusts.

Mackey agrees. “Black female travelers need to see [black] faces in marketing promotion, and they need to ask people they know and trust [about the experience],” Mackey said.

To point, Mackey’s annual “Mystery Trip”—when members arrive at the airport with zero idea of where they’re going—is a success, because her audience trusts her.

Mackey designs experiences that push members out of their comfort zone, including adrenaline challenges like scuba diving or sky diving and visiting places that are not historically occupied by black people.

“We were only black people in Montana when we did our glamping trip. We stood out,” she said. By the end, the perspectives of her group had shifted.

“Everyone [in Montana] was so friendly and asked where we were from," she said. "Someone anonymously paid for our breakfast. Any preconceived notions, anxieties and fears that women in our group had about traveling there were eased. And their feelings about Montana were definitely shared on social media."

Ultimately, the leadership of entrepreneurs—such as Mackey and Robinson—helps to create opportunities for cross-cultural trust. That’s a true paradigm shift.


Jackie Kutzer fishing

Pushing gender parity, one fish at a time

The fishing community is becoming a leader in shifting the gender paradigm, a movement that dovetails with the outdoor industry’s growing focus on diversity. Introducing: 50/50 On the Water, a program to create gender parity in the sport of fly fishing. Orvis launched the more

People gather outside in Jackson Hole for SHIFT Festival

Tourism board has 'full confidence' in SHIFT leadership

After an investigation into the annual SHIFT Festival, the Jackson Hole Travel & Tourism Board (TTB) agreed on Monday to continue funding the event that brings together diverse leaders in the outdoor recreation and conservation space. The review comes after former participants more

Abaco Lodge Owner Oliver White (center) watches for Bonefish—and keeps an eye on his partner’s fishing line, to make sure it doesn’t get tangled—while his partner casts and the guide calls casting commands.

Kicking single-use plastic by the thousands

I grip the rail, jostle in my seat, and squint my eyes as the air whips my hair around. The ocean’s teal-toned abyss in front of our saltwater flat boat is eerily vacant—at least, above the water. We are west of Great Abaco, one of 700 islands in The Bahamas, in the saltwater more

African American hiker reading a map

NOLS expands courses for LGBTQ+ community and people of color

The National Outdoor Leadership School this fall is launching seven new courses for people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community, with more courses rolling out next year. The school recently worked with a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) consulting firm to more

Chevon Powell, founder of Refuge Outdoor Festival

A new outdoorsy camp for people of color

A 2016 survey conducted by the National Park Service found that less than 20 percent of park visitors were non-white. For many reasons, including economic and safety issues, the outdoors can be intimidating, particularly for people of color. Chevon Powell, founder of  Golden more

Black and white portrait of professional freeskier Eric “Hoji” Hjorleifson, in hoodie sweatshirt and ballcap smiling into the camera

From the "dungeon" to the big screen

It’s 3 a.m. and professional skier Eric “Hoji" Hjorleifson stands over the blueprint he’s sketching for a ski boot lever. An overhead lamp illuminates blizzard conditions through the tiny windows of the 12- by 24-foot basement-level workshop—but Hoji hasn’t skied for four weeks more

Man standing on a giant log looking up at towering Sequoias.

Industry Buzz: Fresh leadership at Patagonia, Selena Gomez to play mountaineer in upcoming film, new GOA members, plastic use during the pandemic, small business giveaway

Industry headlines: Intriguing reads from around the web New leadership at Patagonia: The company has hired Beth Thoren as its new environmental action and initiatives director. A mountaineering icon on film: Selena Gomez has signed on to play the mountaineering legend Silvia more


Industry Buzz: Anti-racism, public spaces and people of color, cycling heroics, investment in public lands, drive Denali

The meaning of anti-racism: This article, recently shared by Camber Outdoors, is a good primer on why being "not racist" isn't enough. [Mashable] Racism and public space: It’s time to contend with the reality that individuals of color have a markedly different experience of parks more

Victoria Payne in a Jeep in the desert

This C-level, African American, female executive landed in the outdoor industry almost by accident. But now she’s home.

Victoria Payne describes herself in 2006 as a non-athletic, African American single mom who was trying to climb the corporate ladder as a number cruncher in corporate America. Her closet was filled with colorful silk tops, pant suits, and pumps. She sat in a cubicle and she was more