As Americans look forward to a post-COVID-19 world, travel will be a top priority. African Americans, however, still face demeaning and dismissive interactions when they travel, despite vows by corporate America in 2020 to address racism.
These experiences are even more pronounced for Affluent African Americans (AAAs), creating a distinct set of behaviors and attitudes that define “traveling while Black.” If travel and hospitality brands aim to match reality to AAA expectations, they will need to ensure equity in their services provided and accurate representation of the Black experience in communication materials.
There is much at stake as we enter a new era of travel. The Ipsos Affluent Survey USA defines Affluents as American households with combined income in the top 20%, or $125,000 or more per year. Among African Americans, that translates into spending of more than $24 billion in a typical year on travel alone. Yet being Black and affluent presents a contradiction—one has the means to enjoy luxurious experiences, yet persistent stereotypes prevent one from savoring such enjoyment.
For example, the August Ipsos Affluent Survey found that AAAs were almost three times as likely as African Americans in general to agree they felt they had been stereotyped when traveling either domestically or even internationally. This is emblematic of the disconnect between expectations and treatment that AAAs continue to experience. As a result, AAAs remain constantly aware of their credibility deficit in a world where the presumed social order is disrupted just by their intersection of affluence and Blackness.
Moreover, half of Americans in a February Ipsos Coronavirus Consumer Tracker survey said they believe that while companies spoke out about racism, most didn’t take any action beyond that. Among Black respondents, 55% said they were more likely to purchase something from a company that has taken a public stand against racism. These data show a need for cultural competency awareness and training among hosts and other hospitality service providers.
To address this issue, brands need to understand these experience gaps. Ipsos has helped brands audit their operations for health and safety practices through the pandemic. Similarly, brands can audit against the pandemic of racism by measuring equity and safety practices in customer interactions to spot areas for improvement. Then they can measure progress through the customer experience. By taking a systematic approach to change, the brands that can show growth in equitable treatment have the best chance of attracting and retaining AAA travelers in the future.