(CNN) – Wanderluster Martinique Lewis has achieved a kind of Holy Grail: she has turned her passion for travel into a full-fledged career.
Lewis, who works as a content creator and diversity consultant, noticed a lack of diversity in the travel industry and grew determined to change the status quo. Lewis realized that the travel flyers and companies were not doing enough to attract African American tourists, and she knew they had a problem worth solving.
“There’s no representation of me anywhere, and I know how much money I spend on travel annually,” Lewis told CNN. She uses her platform to help tourism boards and travel brands embrace diversity and practice inclusion.
For two years, she curated the guide based on research and personal travel experience. Lewis describes it as a resource “to connect the African diaspora globally from the ground up.”
The “ABC Travel Green Book” is a self-published guide that lists black-owned businesses, restaurants, communities, tours, and festivals in the United States and abroad.
Lists like these promote black companies, but they also represent black presence in places most people would not think to look at.
Inspired by history
Green, a postal worker from New York, released the first edition of the book in 1936 and for three decades provided African American tourists with a credible list of services and locations across America that served them indiscriminately during the Jim Crow era.
By 1966, it had stopped publishing after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned segregation in public places. Black tourism looks very different today, but Lewis says there is a void of representation when it comes to marketing travel and telling black travel stories.
Martinique Lewis with Gillan Hall Johnson, managing owner of The Sassy Biscuit Co. , In Billings, Montana.
Courtesy Martinique Lewis
“Taking a page from his book, I wanted to do the same kind of things, but I wanted to do it internationally,” Lewis explains. “It not only helps black travelers, it helps black expats – especially if they are moving – to find out what community exists for them in that desired location.”
The call for inclusiveness
Lewis knows the importance of this number and works with many black travel groups to advocate for more diversity.
While Lewis and a group of fellow content creators noticed the many tourism board and travel brands accounts participating in Blackout Tuesday, they also noticed a disconnect between their social media posts and their actions in the travel space.
“We got together with about 17 of my colleagues and said, ‘We have to do something about this because it is no longer appropriate for them to behave in a certain way on social media, but they haven’t proven it,’” Lewis says.
Sassy Biscuit Bruncherie in Billings, Montana is one of the Black-owned businesses in the directory.
Heidi Cooper Photography
As coalition president, Lewis refers to her book as a travel agency resource highlighting unique travel destinations and groups such as black-owned breakfast and lunch spots, libraries, pilots’ associations and more.
“I’ve given you all that information, so the travel industry no longer has an excuse for why they don’t share black stories – why they don’t share these black stories,” Lewis says.
Categories into which brands are classified include diversity in traditional media, diversity at conferences and trade fairs, and diversity in influencers chosen for trips.
Last year, Lewis spoke at a travel summit on Facebook and introduced her versatility to a travel report card based on a rating of 55 prominent travel brands.
Instagram / marty_sandiego
“Using data and traveler stories, Martinique does a great job of advocating for building diversity and inclusion throughout the entire travel journey – both in the physical experience and in marketing,” says Colin Coulter, Director of Travel and Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook.
“Her work highlights the importance of underrepresented travelers and how the industry needs to transform to become more inclusive,” says Coulter. Coulter’s role at Facebook includes helping the world’s largest travel brands succeed in the mobile-first world.
Get out and go
Lewis believes black tourists can participate in travel in a powerful way thanks to Greene’s work.
“Victor Hugo Green wasn’t celebrated enough,” says Lewis. “It’s the reason my grandparents were traveling safely from Tennessee to California. It’s the reason blacks decided to go out and go.”
For Lewis, the man on the cover of her book symbolizes the “get out and go” spirit.
On the cover, Philip Calvert, fellow travel content creator, wears Lederhusen and carries the black power salute after a successful hike up Untersberg in Salzburg, Austria.
“It really embodies everything I feel like travel and what travelers are supposed to do, and it connects with communities everywhere they go,” Lewis says.
“One of the things I look for when I travel is black-owned companies because I want to promote them,” Calvert says. “I’m so excited about a book like this because we’re finally showing the work of Black and I think that’s amazing.”
To encourage, inspire and educate
Lewis also created the “ABC Travel Green Book” to create a space for black tourists and expats to learn about their history and connect with black communities in places they might know nothing about.
Experience Real Cartegena is dedicated to showing visitors an authentic story of the Colombian city.
The Real Cartegena Experience
“Everyone goes to Amsterdam to the Red Light District, without realizing that you are wandering around,” Lewis says. “All you have to do is look up and see the black faces on the buildings.” “This is how people showed they were rich: to show they had slaves.”
After her time there, she enrolled at a Dutch university where she says the courses overlooked the historical presence of blacks in the Netherlands. Her tours make this presence visible through Amsterdam’s architecture, landscapes, and literature.
Naki Jaglo, Founder of African Lisbon Tours, takes a tour group to explore the history of the Portuguese slave trade.
Lisbon African Tours
“The unique thing about Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general is that a lot of black existence, a lot of colonial history, is well preserved in our architectural history,” Tosh explains. “You actually see this black presence in monuments, canal homes, museums. The city, in a sense, becomes an archive.”
Tosh believes that ABC’s “Green Travel Book” could open up access to people of color and black tourists, especially Allies who want to go beyond the “objective narrative” of some major travel destinations.
Lewis expands the meaning of her book with a call to action for people outside of the diaspora who also want to support more diversity in travel.
“This is for the ubiquitous travelers who call themselves an ally and who say they want to support black voices and sponsor black companies,” Lewis says. “This book helps you locate exactly where these people are, and those communities, and those places.”
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