Black & Abroad revolutionizes travel experience, sends groups to Africa

Eric Martin and Kent Johnson break down how they filled a gap
From left, Black & Abroad co-founder Eric Martin and chief strategy officer Kent Johnson. (Photo credit: Rashad Milligan for rolling out)

Eric Martin and Kent Johnson saw a need and filled it.

The duo noticed the biases in business and vendor recommendations when traveling to new cities and how they failed to include Black businesses. From there, came the birth of the Black Elevation Map and Black & Abroad.

Both Martin and Johnson stopped by rolling out to discuss the venture in further detail.

What is the background story on this business?

Johnson: In 2015, Eric, and I started this company as a call to change how Black travelers saw themselves in media. We would do Google results for locations and destinations, and we wouldn’t see people who looked like us. We wanted to change Google results, we wanted other people to really see things that can inspire their trips out in the world. So we started the company really to address that. From there, we started working with any company that dealt with the travel industry, whether it was hotels, credit card companies, tourism boards, to help them create authentic and organic marketing campaigns that targeted Black travelers.

We’ve also launched our own marketing campaigns.

The two that we’re known for the most is our Go Back to Africa campaign, which was launched in 2019. … That campaign won a lot of awards, but most notably is the Creative Data Lions track’s Grand Prix in 2019. Our most recent campaign is the Black Elevation Map, which launched in February of this year, a few months ago. That’s a visual map that identifies all of the Black-owned businesses in the country, as well as landmarks, population data, and it creates a score, which uses that to identify elevation in certain places in the country. That’s been the highlight of 2022 for us, and really speaks to the work that we’ve done from 2015 to now.

The “Go Back to Africa” campaign. That’s such a loaded statement because that’s a stereotypical response given to Black people when conflicts arise, specifically with Whites. How was that experience to not only plan it, but see it come to life?

Martin: It was a labor of love, honestly, because this is something that was actually personal to me.

I remember being in the fourth grade, the first time I was told to go back to Africa by a White person. We had hired a social listening company, just to feel around the World Wide Web to see how many times it was being used in derogatory ways. At the time, when we started back in 2019, this was used around 4,500 to 5,000 times per month. People were just saying this stuff online. They were using it so freely, and it was just like the default derogatory phrase to use whenever you’re going back and forth in a racial dialogue. … We figured, since we’re a tourism company, how can we not only use the data to change the impact of that phrase, but to also bring money to the continent?

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