Here is our list of 12 of the best black-owned firms in the world of luxury travel right now, including hotels, destination spas, tour services, yacht charters and private jet companies.
The Best Black-Owned Firms in the World of Luxury Travel
OK, we’ll admit it. We have been daydreaming a lot lately about traveling to spend time with friends and family. Or to escape the confinement and dreariness of work-from-home, social distancing, and anxious occasional ventures out of the house.
The ellipses are filled in with all the travel fantasies we have been forever putting off. Like renting a villa in Ibiza, cruising through the Greek islands, or going on safari. The borders may be temporarily closed, but our imaginations still have free reign.
But for black Americans, travel hasn’t always been as simple as dreaming up the perfect destination and then heading out to explore it. In some cases, it’s still not.
More than 80 years ago, Victor Hugo Green created The Negro Motorist Green Book. This unique travel guide catered to the concerns of black travelers at a time when Jim Crow laws and racial segregation were prominent in the U.S. It featured trusted hotels, restaurants, and gas stations – so that black people could travel without fear. Or at least, a little less fear.
Circumstances have improved mightily for black travelers in the decades since the Civil Rights Act banned segregation in America. But when it comes to the luxury travel and hospitality industry today, black-owned businesses are still few and far between.
Less than 2% of hotels across the country are currently black-owned. And although spending by African-American travelers has steadily increased to $63 billion (from $48 billion in 2010), much of the luxury travel market still targets and showcases predominantly white tourists —only 2.6% of ads focus on black audiences.
One benefit of having ample time to dream and plan is that we can be deliberate and conscious about which businesses we choose to support in our travels.
With this guide, we are hoping to make it easier to identify and support black-owned luxury travel businesses, ranging from resorts to travel agencies to yacht and air charters.
In a perfect world, travelers of all races will be able to travel with confidence, secure in the knowledge that the hospitality industry is . . . actually hospitable to everyone.
But until then, all travelers can know that these black-owned businesses offer more than just traditional luxury. They also offer peace of mind from implicit bias and discrimination.
And as always, putting dollars into black-owned hospitality companies will foster the dawn of a more inclusive and diverse global luxury travel industry. Which would be a true luxury indeed.
Black-owned luxury hotels
1. Salamander Resorts and Spas: Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, Jamaica
Sheila Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, is the owner of the luxurious 340-acre property, Salamander Resort and Spa located in the countryside of Middleburg, Virginia.
It is the DC area’s only 5-star destination resort and offers a 23,000 square foot spa, as well as outdoor adventures like zip-lining, hiking, and horseback riding.
Johnson’s company also manages equally sophisticated and luxuriously appointed properties in Destin, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Tampa Bay, Florida, should you be up for a tour of the South.
2. Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns: New York, Washington D.C, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
Husband and wife team — Glenn Pogue and Monique Greenwood (former editor-in-chief for Essence magazine), grew their upscale lodging collection from a dilapidated mansion in Brooklyn that the neighborhood children once called “the haunted house.”
They restored the 14-foot ceilings, ornate fireplaces, intricate parquet wood floors of the 1860’s landmark mansion with modern amenities like oversized Jacuzzi tubs. And decorated it throughout with antiques and elegant Afrocentric decor.
Their vision extended to a Victorian inn in the beach town of Cape May, NJ; a literary-themed townhouse in DC; a luxury spa resort set in a Gilded Age mansion that once belonged to the founders of the F.W. Woolworth Corp. in the Poconos Mountains; and a historic manor in Philadelphia.
3. La Maison in Midtown: Houston, Texas
Houston attorney Genora Boykins and her business partner Sharon Owens are the epitome of boss women. Both juggled their full-time jobs while building and opening the three-story New Orleans-inspired B&B with a conference room for meetings and a parlor, living room, and dining area for that quintessential at-home vibe.
The property is surrounded by some of Houston’s finest dining, best shopping, and entertainment venues. It has also been included on BedandBreakfast.com’s list of the World’s 10 Best Urban Bed and Breakfasts.
4. The Ivy Hotel: Baltimore, Maryland
Husband and wife, Eddie and Sylvia Brown met as college students at Howard University and embarked on opening this exquisite hotel after nearly 50 years of marriage.
The historic Mount Vernon mansion underwent 4 years of renovations and is now complete with 18 posh and charming suites and guest rooms, a luxury spa, and home to Magdalena, the culinary jewel of Baltimore.
5. Urban Cowboy B&B: New York and Tennessee
Jersey Banks is one-half of the hipster B&B venture, Urban Cowboy, that she shares with partner Lyon Porter. Together, they have created impossibly cool and Instagrammable accommodations in the Catskill Mountains of New York and in Nashville, Tennessee.
Each property is decked out with a maximalist’s eye for design: regional craft traditions, handpicked antiques, loud pattern mixing that just works. Their Catskills Lodge is set on 68 sprawling acres with access to hiking trails and swimming streams. The Nashville property boasts eight experiential suites housed in a historic Victorian mansion while the on-site Public House Bar serves up amazing craft cocktails.
Black-owned transportation services
1. Soca Caribbean Yacht Charters
If the Caribbean is calling your name, you’ll need to charter a yacht for a true luxury experience. Howard Law graduate Sheila Ruffin grew up boating with her grandfather on Virginia’s eastern shore. Those experiences inspired her to start her own travel company after a stint in St. Thomas.
Her company provides full crew charters based in the Bahamas, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, and the British Virgin Islands. Whether it’s providing door-to-dock-to-door service, personal gourmet chefs, or bartenders, Ruffin’s company is dedicated to making your vacation an epic experience.
Bernie Burns is defying odds in more ways than one- first, as a black pilot (only 3% of commercial pilots are African American) and second as the owner of a private aviation company.
Prior to the launch of B2 Aviation, Burns worked for Cessna Aircraft Co. and Bombardier – two of the largest companies in private aviation. With $6,000 in personal savings, he started his company, which now arranges private jet flights all around the world and curates exceptional travel experiences.
If you’re fed up with the constant Uber and Lyft controversies, consider Moovn instead. Launched in 2015 by Godwin Gabriel, Moovn Technologies is proudly black-owned and comprised of almost 99% black driver-partners.
Tanzania-born Gabriel immigrated to the U.S where he taught himself to code. His app works the same way as any other ride-sharing app, allowing the passenger to schedule or pre-schedule a ride up to a month in advance. The company has operations in most major US cities, as well as in Canada and Africa.
Black-owned travel and tour services
1. Perspective travel
Perspective travel offers unique ACCESS TO THE PLACES THAT EVEN GOOGLE CAN’T FIND – nothing that they do is copy and paste. They believe that “needle in a haystack” travel experiences should be the norm and not the exception.
Founder Amina is passionate about seeing a destination through the eyes of locals is a privilege, respecting the culture and traditions of a destination is a necessity.
2. Travel Noire
Travel Noire is an award-winning boutique travel company founded with one lofty goal in mind. Founder, Zim Ugochukwuthe, wanted to make international travel more inclusive and representative for explorers of color.
The multimedia site offers a community membership that helps discerning travelers discover, plan and experience new destinations. From partnerships with black owned hotels and brands around the world to exclusive content for travelers of color.
3. Showtime travel
Showtime Travel is a travel agency that focuses on helping busy professionals plan leisure luxury all-inclusive vacations since 2002. Their goal is to give busy professionals peace of mind so all they have to do is show up and enjoy their vacation.
4. The Wind Collective
The Wind Collective a bespoke community travel experience. They host monthly group trips “for the constantly curious, the daringly brave.” Every trip is crafted alongside local partners in their destinations provide adventurers with an immersive experience from the moment they land to the moment they leave.
Whether it’s Sri Lanka, Morocco, Japan or the South of France, founder Clé Hunnigan, believes travel can heal and inspire creativity.
Best Black-Owned Firms in the World of Luxury Travel
As these companies prove, traveling with black-owned travel businesses can open up your mind and the world. Don’t forget to bookmark this page for when you’re ready to travel again!