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How race affects access to tourism: ethnic minority tourism experiemces

How race affects access to tourism: ethnic minority tourism experiemces
Author: Jemma Miller
3 Commentries
This paper aims to identify how race can affect people’s access to tourism. The paper will focus specifically on how racial discrimination and tourism advertisements affect the travel behaviours and tourism experiences of African American travellers and also how they differ to those of white tourists. The use of social media amongst African American travellers will also be discussed and how it has encouraged and helped the black community before, during and after their travels.

Key words
Racialisation, Tourism, African American, Social media

Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and during the years of racial segregation in the United states, travel became very rare and also very difficult for African Americans (Carter, 2008). Travel for African Americans was incredibly hard and very dangerous in some parts of America due to racism, acts of violence and also lots of places such as hotel and service areas refused to accommodate and serve African American travellers.

Today, all races and ethnicities are free to travel whenever and wherever they please. However, even in modern times, African American travellers still sometimes experience racism and discrimination whilst travelling. These negative experiences, coupled with how travelling used to be in the past for minority groups, have altered some travel behaviours adopted by some African American travellers.

Literature on this subject explains that African American travellers have very different travel habits and behaviours to those of white tourists. Compare to white American tourists, African American tourists tend to travel in larger groups, to shorter distances and they also tend to avoid unknown or unplanned destinations. Carter (2008) suggests that the reasoning for this is due to the racialisation of spaces. Meaning the difference in travel behaviours between white and African American tourists can be explained by negative experiences encountered in certain places relating to race. There are two main theories as to why the travel behaviours of African American tourists are so different to those of white tourists. Holland (2002) explains that the marginality theory is that people with similar socio-economic statuses are more likely to participate in similar leisure and travel activities and behaviours rather than participating in different activities and behaviours due to discrimination towards ethnic minority groups. The second theory is the ethnicity theory. This explains that recreational and travel activities and behaviours can be based more on cultural norms and values. This means a person’s race and culture could account for some barriers to tourism and can also explain why African Americans do not usually participate in activities or travel to places that are labelled as ‘white activities and destinations’ (Holland, 2002).

The tourism industry has often underrepresented ethnic minority groups, such as African Americans, in their advertisements. This has contributed towards racial stereotypes and can also be a contributing factor towards travel behaviours. In efforts to address racial diversity, more stereotypes are created. For example, special brochures are created highlighting African American tourism, but in doing this, it makes it seem as though they are racializing certain places and saying that African American tourists do not belong in certain places. The use of social media and the popular hashtag ‘travelling while black’ has been a positive step in the right direction for the African American travelling community. The hashtag on different social media platforms allows users to post their personal experiences of travelling to different destinations along with helpful tips and resources for other travellers. Whilst a lot of the experiences posted on these forums are negative and serve as a warning to other travellers to prepare themselves if travelling to the same area, some positive aspects have come of the online communities. Positive experiences are shared, and these have helped to empower black travellers and also encourage people to travel to new destinations and travel more in general (Dilette, Benjamin and Carpenter, 2019). While the social media platforms have been a positive for the African American travel community, the experiences posted have also revealed that racism and discrimination is still prevalent in some destinations to this day and this still deters some people from travelling. This is mainly due to negative experiences, experiences of racism and also due to the history of racial segregation and problems for African Americans travelling in the united states. There are still many barriers faced for ethnic minority groups while travelling. However, social media can help to encourage people to travel without fear and can help towards social justice and racial diversity within tourism.


Carter, P.L., 2008. Coloured places and pigmented holidays: Racialized leisure travel. Tourism Geographies, 10(3), pp.265-284.

Dillette, A.K., Benjamin, S. and Carpenter, C., 2019. Tweeting the Black travel experience: social media counternarrative stories as innovative insight on# TravelingWhileBlack. Journal of Travel Research, 58(8), pp.1357-1372.

Holland, J.W., 2002. Black recreation: A historical perspective. Rowman & Littlefield.
Commentary on; How race affects access to tourism: Ethnic minority tourism experiences.
Author: Francesca White
The study grabbed my attention as it is an extremely relevant topic and has been for many years. This study identifies interesting knowledge and insights surrounding how tourism advertisements affect the travel behaviours and tourism experiences of African American travellers. Many points addressed in this paper were unknown to myself and intrigued me more.
As stated in the paper although African Americans are free to travel when and where they wish, there are many factors causing a constrained mobility while travelling. Expanding on the papers point regarding to how African Americans avoid unfamiliar places, Lee and Scott's (2017) study used habitus and vignette techniques (Wilks, 2002) to identify 4 themes which were predominant in all of the participants responses; Racial Discrimination, Fear of Racism, Storytelling and safety instructions, and Race-related travel choices.

The racial discrimination theme highlights how specific service providers and tourism settings (airplanes, restaurants, country clubs and gas stations) expressed heightened discrimination. One of the participants within Lee and Scott (2017) study stated that they were refused access into a country club due to their race. Phillips (1999) conducted a study which showed that country clubs are one of the most unwelcoming leisure settings for African Americans correlating with the respondent’s statement.

The fear of racism theme showed that outdoor environments, rural settings and travel decisions were all affected by the fear of racism embedded into their culture due to pass experiences or news articles.
Storytelling and safety instructions highlights how the fear of racism is reproduced across generations, with younger generations having an embedded fear due to the stories from older generations despite them not having experience racism themselves.

The race-related travel choices theme identifies how African Americans tend to not travel to unfamiliar places (as stated in this paper) and they tend to only stay in well-establish hotels and avoid small towns with few minorities present.

This paper expanded my knowledge surrounding race and tourism experiences, sparking more of an interest to expand on their findings and to conduct research into Lee and Scott's (2017) study.


Lee, K., and Scott, D (2017) Racial discrimination and African Americans travel behaviour: the utility of habitus and vignette technique. Journal of Travel Research, 56:3, 381-392. Available from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301614941_Racial_Discrimination_and_African_Americans%27_Travel_Behavior_The_Utility_of_Habitus_and_Vignette_Technique [Accessed 13 May 2020].

Phillips, S (1999) Are we welcome? African American racial acceptance in leisure activities and the importance given to children’s leisure. Journal of Leisure Research, 31:4, 385-403. Available from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00222216.1999.11949873 [Accessed 13 May 2020].

Wilks, T (2004) The use of vignettes in Qualitative Research into social work values. Qualitative social work, 3:1, 78-87. Available from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/240698233_The_Use_of_Vignettes_in_Qualitative_Research_into_Social_Work_Values [Accessed 13 May 2020].
Commentary on: How race affects access to tourism: Ethnic minority tourism experiences.
Author: Jenny Noriega
I have chosen this paper to produce a commentary on, as it is similar to my discussion paper on ethnicity and tourism experiences. I wanted to see if the author of this discussion paper found new insights that I may have overlooked. The focus of this paper is racial discrimination and tourism advertisements. The author also discusses how African American tourists travel differently to white tourists which is something I did not discuss, therefore found interesting.

The paper has covered a good range of background information around legislation. It comments on the Civil Rights act of 1964 and how times have changed therefore improved equality of the years (Carter, 2008). This is a critical part of the discussion as it raises the idea that although things have improved, they are not yet perfect, thus racism is still an on-going issue.

The evaluation on the literature is concise and brings in relevant theory’s for why African American tourists travel the way they do. It also explains travel behaviours and attitudes towards travelling to “white destinations” (Holland, 2002). This is insightful as it clearly shows that African American tourists try to avoid travelling to predominantly white populated tourist destinations. This may be a way of avoiding racism and discrimination from occurring.

The discussion around the representation of ethnic minorities in the media creates a very exceptional theory for why some tourist destinations are moderately white. The author clearly explains that this is due to the media poorly representing the ethnic minorities in mainstream media advertisement. However due to the new “travelling while black” hashtag on social media people are able to talk about their own experiences and give future travellers advice.

Overall the author of this discussion has clearly analysed the negative impacts of racism and the effect it has on traveller behaviour. They have also used relevant theories and references to examine the issue. They could have completed primary data in order to understand further from a personal perspective.

- Stephenson, M.L., (2006) Travel and the ‘freedom of movement’: Racialised encounters and experiences amongst ethnic minority tourists in the EU. Mobilities, 1(2), pp.285-306.

- Pearce, P.L., (2005) Tourist behaviour: Themes and conceptual schemes. Channel View Publications.

- Philipp, S.F., (1994) Race and tourism choice: A legacy of discrimination?. Annals of Tourism Research, 21(3), pp.479-488.
Commentary on: How race affects access to tourism: BAME minority tourism experiences.
Author: Aleksandra Pacholska
My choice upon commentary on this particular paper base on the similarity of the topic I have decided to create for my discussion paper. The issue generated amongst ethnicity and racial discrimination within the tourism industry is significant, therefore, my focus has been orientated on the context of this study. The perception of this paper focuses on the racial discrimination touching upon the African American tourists and their travel experiences.

The information included in the scope of this work focuses strongly on legislation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which cover issues surrounded the BAME minority and its complicated and dangerous travel. Thus, I would like to acknowledge the fact that the times have changed although the issues of the BAME and specifically the Black society are still significant.

The literature refers to racism as a process taken by individuals to categorise minority groups. The stigma for African American’s refers strongly to the otherness based on skin colour. The differentiations make the BAME community distinctive in these aspects; as it is easily noticeable (Stephenson and Hughes, 2005).

As a review of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 multiple issues is presented. Institutional racism is experienced in everyday life not excluding community experiences while travelling abroad (Stephenson, 2006). Citizens of the BAME community groups are being inquisitioned regardless of the criminal records, consequently, it proves the argument of destinations being adapted as the ‘white destinations’ (Holland, 2002). The relation of the intensified racial abuse can be noticed from many historical backgrounds; 9/11 is known as a turning point for the minority groups regarding ‘terrorism concerns". The groups of tourists are taken as a potential risk being named as "racialised others". The tourists of the BAME community groups are taken as a threat rather than travellers with a pursuit of pleasurable or educational visits (Scott and Lee, 2017).

The author of the discussion has presented the issues and analysed the negative impacts of racism within African American’s. The theories used within this paper prove the knowledge and interest in examining the issue surrounded by the BAME minorities. The paper has fulfilled my consciousness concerning the African Americans within the BAME society.


Holland, J.W., 2002. Black recreation: A historical perspective. [eBook] Rowman & Littlefield. Available from https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=pl&lr=&id=8phq3koHwuEC&oi=fnd&pg=PR13&dq=Holland,+J.W.,+2002.+Black+recreated:+A+historical+perspective.+Rowman+%26+Littlefield.&ots=-WQ_ZV-5gg&sig=U5kSo-bi73172YL8Dr8nbeB0yE4#v=onepage&q&f=false [accessed 14 May 2020]

Lee, K.,J. and Scott, D. (2017) Racial Discrimination and African Americans’ Travel Behavior: The Utility of Habitus and Vignette Technique. Journal of Travel Research, Vol. 56(3) 381–392. Available from https://journals-sagepub-com.proxy.library.lincoln.ac.uk/doi/pdf/10.1177/0047287516643184?fbclid=IwAR3EU_2pOr_51I6i7phc8BM8bGuhXDfDgNR12AASGU5NXulruLN5aSnSNa8 [accessed 14 May 2020]

STEPHENSON, M.L, and HUGHES, H.L. (2005) Racialised boundaries in tourism and travel: a case study of the UK black Caribbean community. Leisure Studies, 24(2) 137-160, Available from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0261436052000308811?journalCode=rlst20 [accessed 14 May 2020]