Future growth of Florida tied to African-American traveler

Filed under COMMENTARIES

DEREK HANKERSON
GUEST COLUMNIST

As we celebrate Florida’s 500th anniversary, did you know we as a community have not taken advantage of the niche market of the Native and African-American traveler or better yet the “multicultural travel market.’’

Through decades of consistent market research we know that one of the most underserved and undervalued travel market segment in the United States is the “multicultural tourism market.”

According to the University of Georgia, Terry School of Business, this market is estimated to have the largest concentration of disposable income by 2015, and consists of the African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans markets.

Guerilla marketing tactics
Our business model for travel and tourism provides for the use of guerilla marketing tactics, sound market data and branding for growth.

As a result, we created travel and tourism opportunities to connect and brand both the National Park Service (NPS) Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Project (UGGR/NTF) to Fort Mose, City of St. Augustine and St. Johns County, and continue to work on connecting the NPS Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor to St. Johns County, which is the largest four state NPS project and only one of 48 National Heritage Area projects related to African-American History.

Ironically, Duval County has the largest concentration of West African Gullah-Geechee decedents.  Additionally, we attracted the NPS UGGR/NTF Annual Conference to St. Johns County in 2012 so to serve as the market leader while continuing to drive deeper into this proven market.  And established that the Underground Railroad originally came south to Spanish Florida.

Affluent African-Americans
Market data shows that the middle and upper income segments of the African-American community have grown enormously in the past 10 years, and more than 13 percent of households headed by African-Americans have incomes above $50,000.

Close to half of all affluent African-American households (those with household incomes of more than $50,000 a year) are located in the South.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on African-American, we have gains up to 470 percent between 1972 and 1991 in the areas of accounting, engineering, computer programming, law, medicine, journalism and management.

The African-American market alone is a large and growing market, approximately 32 million people with close to $300 billion in spending power.

According to the Urban Land Institute, the African-American market increased to about 38 million individuals by 2010, up from about 32 million.

Same as Whites
The middle and upper class African-American baby boomers present the same travel marketing opportunities as White boomers for the travel industry, and African-Americans took 77.8 million trips in 1991, nearly 8 percent of the U.S. trip market.

If consumers and producers are to tap this niche viable market segment they first must understand the African-American, international, and multicultural travel consumer. A more effective understanding of the African-American market is necessary for destination marketers to develop the products and services necessary to effectively serve this growing market.

We always want successful celebration in our area, because it affords us an opportunity to showcase the history of African-American travel market specifically  the City of Jacksonville and St. Augustine as top travel destinations.

It is important, because travelers are here and we are properly positioned to “branding our area appropriately,” for additional economic development growth.

It can be accomplished through arts, culture, entertainment, heritage, culture, travel and tourism.

Derek Boyd Hankerson is the managing partner, director and producer of Freedom Road Productions and Travel Host Magazine.

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