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A Critical Overview of Ethnic Minorities' Travel Behaviour

A Critical Overview of Ethnic Minorities' Travel Behaviour
Author: Heli Raudaskoski
1 Commentries

This conference paper critically examines ethnic minorities as tourists; their behaviour, motivations and reasons for travel as well as their ability to access tourism. The paper also discusses the causes for differences in ethnic minorities' travel patterns.

Keywords: ethnic minorities, ethnicity, marginality, travel behaviour, destination choice

Ethnic minorities represent an important part of the western population today. These minorities, often defined by skin color (white, black) religion (Jews, Muslims, Christians) or culture (Gypsies) include indigenous people, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. (Allen & Macey, 1990)

Washburne's marginality-ethnicity framework (1978, cited in Klemm, 2002) declares that blacks' travelling behaviour, preferences and destination choices differs to whites'. The reasons are divided in to two dimensions: marginality and ethnicity. The marginality dimension states that blacks often have a lower income and belong to a lower social class than whites. Thus blacks can not afford to go on holidays and are not considered as potential, worthwhile customers for travel businesses.

Urry (1990) supports Washburne's marginality hypothesis by stating that there are more non-holiday-takers in ethnic minorities than the average of 30 per cent of the UK population, who do not take holidays. At the same time, Philip (1993) proposes that as half of the black population in the 1990s America were in managerial, professional and technical occupations, their travelling patterns may not remarkably differ to whites'.

The ethnicity dimension (1978, cited in Klemm, 2000) claims that travelling behaviour is determined by individuals' upbringing and cultural identity. As Floyd (1998, p. 5) suggests "ethnicity hypothesis explains differences in participation as reflecting divergent norms, value systems, and social organisation between majority and minority populations." Philip (1994, cited in Klemm, 2000) states that blacks prefer to travel in larger groups and to more familiar destinations than whites. They wish to feel secure, comfortable and socially accepted in their group whilst travelling and enjoy taking well-planned holidays with not much adventure.

Washburne explains majority-majority differences by socioeconomic reasons, without considering the differences between groups within minorities. His framework has been criticised for lacking adequate definitions and explication; it is defined by examples and its empirical referents. Another problem of the framework is its' suggestion that ethnic minorities should adjust to dominant populations. (Floyd, 1998)

Discrimination is often identified as a cause for ethnic differences in leisure behaviour. Unfortunately, research of this topic has remained underdeveloped. Studies have not indicated how different levels and types of discrimination have affected minority individuals. (Floyd, 1998)

African-Americans destination choices have changed over time. Prior to the 1960s, the most common form of travelling for the few blacks who took holidays was to travel in groups to regional destinations by land-based transportation. This was done to minimise the risk for racial acts. (Brunn et al, 2002)

Since the 1960s, when the federal civil rights legislation was adopted in the US, ethnic minorities have been less limited to travel. (Floyd, 1998) Popular African-American destinations have included Africa and the Caribbean (Brunn et al, 2002) to maintain African-Americans' "social, economical and cultural ties" with their countries of origin. (Grillo, 2008) Today, some African-Americans choose Europe as a primary destination and enjoy taking cruises (Brunn et al, 2002).

Travel Industry of America's (TIA) found out in their survey that there are not huge differences in the travel behaviours between the African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American minorities and the majority US population. However, differences in destination choices were found, as African-Americans preferred travelling to southern states; Asian-Americans, who were most keen on gambling in California and Nevada; while Hispanic Americans listed California as their most favourable destination. (Smith, 2001, p. 55)

Urry (1990, p. 142-3) questions the non-white immigrants' interest in taking western-type "sun, sea and sand" holidays, as they may conceive whites' obsession to darken their skins and increase the risk of acquiring skin cancer idiosyncratic. Moreover; minorities may feel perplexed and excluded to the typical mass holidays. Immigrants prefer to travel with a more serious purpose; travelling that involves finding work, visiting or joining family.

Some ethnic groups have experienced many major tour operators' selling techniques and promotional methods negative towards them (Klemm, 2002; Brunn et al, 2002). They also feel neglected by UK tour companies, as not many holiday brochures present pictures of non-whites. This may be because minorities are seen as a niche market section or because it is believed that ethnic minorities are not interested in purchasing "white" mass-market holidays (Klemm, 2002).

According to Urry (1990), holiday-takers are considered white, while the pictures of non-whites in holiday advertising materials are there simply to represent the "exotic natives". Moreover, when black or Asian people are seen on British tourist attractions popular within foreign travellers, they are presumed to be overseas visitors or local service workers rather than domestic visitors.

A significant amount of studies on race and ethnicity in leisure has been published in recent years. Hence the increased volume of research in the area, sub-field has attracted frequent criticism of its' limited quantity, its' lacking of theory and its' narrowness of selected topics. However, the area seems to be attracting more and more researchers. (Floyd et al, 2008)


Brunn, S. D, Butler, D. L. & Carter, P. L. (2002) African-American Travel Agents: Travais and Survival. Annals of Tourism Research. 29 (4) pp. 1022-1035.

Floyd, M. F. (1998) Getting Beyond Marginality and Ethnicity: The challenge for race and ethnic studies in leisure research. Journal of Leisure Research. 30 (1) pp. 3-22.

Klemm, M. (2002) Tourism and Ethnic Minorities in Bradford: The Invisible Segment. Journal of Travel Research. 41 pp. 85-91.
Ethnic Travel
Author: Hayleigh Redman
Heli, this is a very interesting paper with many points which have relevance to the conference paper I wrote. Although your paper doesn't specifically focus on African American tourism there are many points which can be related to my topic.

The reference you used from Philip (1993) concerning black travel patterns is of interest to me Heli. I found an interesting article about African American travel agents by Butler et al (2002) which discusses the travel patterns of black people; it suggests that in the 60's African American travel was different to that of white travellers (this was just the African American market, it cannot be said for all blacks). Butler et al stated (2002) that due to less disposable income and type of work they were less likely to travel, whereas whites would travel more frequently. This has obviously changed since the 60's and the travel patterns in terms of overnight stays of the blacks and whites are now relatively even.

Once again you make good use of Washburne's (1978) framework to address a very important issue which also arose in my conference paper. For the African American market it is essential that individuals' preferences are considered, as lot of choices made by them are directly based on their value and belief systems (Stephenson 2010), which is ultimately linked to their upbringing and cultural identity. Seeking 'ethnic reunion' (King 1994) is a major factor for many African American travellers, it would be interesting to see if this was a trend for other ethnic groups.

Not having read Washburne's Framework I was unclear on what it consisted of, in your discussion paper you have briefly described the important issues relating to it and it would be interesting for me to read your full conference paper to see if more detail is given as I think Washburne has created some interesting theories. I like the way you have critiqued Washburne's Framework, it is important to recognise that minority groups do differ and you can't summarise them as one. Also I like how you used Floyd (1998) in order to critique the framework created by Washburne, in my opinion it would have made a more exciting debate if you had expanded on this critique but again your full conference paper may have shown this.

Heli your work on African American destinations is very interesting, my primary research was on this so it makes a good read and links to my paper very nicely. During my research I did find that Africa and the Caribbean were popular destinations with African American travellers, this is mainly due to cultural ties relating to their ancestors. As you mentioned, using Brunn et al (2002) as a reference, in today's society African Americans are choosing Europe as destination for travel, my primary research found that this trend also had links with their cultural history and that slaves journeyed across Europe to start new lives. Cities such as Paris are the most popular with a lot of African American history available for those who travel there.

Overall I think this discussion was well executed with a good use of references to back up the points made by the author. The discussion paper was very interesting to read, there were many parts which were of significance to me as they related to my topic. It would be fascinating to read the whole conference paper to further expand on what I have read here. Well done.


Bulter, D. Carter, P. Brunn, S. (2002). African American Travel Agents. Annals of Tourism Research. 29 (4)

King, B. (1994)What is ethnic tourism? An Australianperspective. TourismManagement 15 (3), 173-6.