Together they created Black Travel Creators – a platform for Black travel bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers to share the skills and knowledge to help their community to succeed in the travel industry. Now with nearly 10k Insta followers, the platform recently won 2020’s TTG Future Travel Leaders Award and the pair were recognised as an influential force in the travel industry.
“I’d go to a brand travel event and I wouldn’t see anyone from my community,” Debbie Adigun tells me. “Sometimes, I’d be the only Black person there and I’d think, there are so many talented Black travel content creators out there, why are they not getting invited to these events? Why are they not being seen? Black people travel too.”
The Black travel community is a powerful one. In America, Black travellers spend over $63 billion on travel each year, while Debbie also tells me that the UK BAME community spends around £300 million. So, why aren’t brands working with Black content creators more? Here, I chat to Debbie (virtually, of course) about her goals and vision for Black Travel Creators…
Hi Debbie, tell me about you – what do you do and why do you love to travel?
“I’ve always loved to travel. I travelled with my family when I was younger. We didn’t go to a lot of different places – more like day trips to Brighton, other cities in the UK or day trips to European cities. When I started university, I started travelling with my friends and I felt like I was finally free to see the world.
“My most memorable trip was visiting my friend in Malaysia, where she’s originally from. I stayed with her in her parent’s house and it was Chinese New Year – the year of the monkey, the year I was born! I just remember eating a lot of food and collecting those little red cards that are given out during Chinese New Year. It was my first time travelling to Asia and I’ve never been so far from home. The full-on celebration was amazing.”
“After uni, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I’d fallen in love with travelling and that’s why I started my blog, Wanderlust Calls. It was a hobby at first; a way to share and document my experiences. Since then, I’ve created a little community of wanderlusters, and hopefully the blog inspires other people to travel more as well.”
What was the vision for Wanderlust Calls?
“I started sharing advice and helping to inspire other people – as some people don’t see travel as an option for them. Personally, travel has helped me grow a lot as a person and I feel like it’s a really good way to discover who you are.
“My key focus now is creating more wellness content – from self-development to mental health. Travel for me is very therapeutic. I started solo travelling around three years ago and it’s given me so much more confidence in myself, it’s shown me that I’m capable of a lot more than I originally thought. Solo travel can be scary and it’s hard to take the leap, but I want to show that it’s a way of looking after yourself and broadening your horizons.
“Now more than ever, I feel it’s the time to start focusing on this and I want to offer my community a safe space to talk about how hard the last few months have been.”
What drove you to set up Black Travel Creators with co-founder Adebola?
“We set up BTC just over two years ago. I met Adebola on social media, we were both travel bloggers. After meeting up in person only a handful of times, we thought we’d be stronger creating the platform together.
“Honestly, we were just tired of being overlooked. We have a great community of Black travel creators – we pretty much all know each other, especially in London. We wondered why we weren’t getting invited to events and press trips, and why we weren’t being marketed to. We spend our money and we travel, but we’re not given the same opportunities to work with brands. If we are, it’s just the one token Black person, and sometimes the same person!
“We just want to give our community the skills and the knowledge that they need to succeed in the travel industry. That’s why we created BTC.”
How is your community growing and responding?
“BTC was created for them and we’re here to help them succeed. Now we have a global community, especially across the US, UK, Europe and Africa.
“Last year, we had our first event to celebrate our 1st birthday. We brought together around 50 travel content creators (back when we could actually meet) for a big networking event with two panel discussions, focusing on how to work with brands and how to grow your social media following.”
“This year, we’ve had mainly virtual events, and a recent networking event on Zoom. We invited people from all over the world and had some incredible speakers – from Jamie-Lee Abtar, the Executive Director of BAME Women in Travel to Kyle Harrigan, Business Development Rep for the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board. They shared their advice on what travel might look like after Covid-19 and how content creators can adapt.”
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How important are events like these to Black content creators (and in particular younger content creators)?
“I think it’s very inspiring. When you’re in a room by yourself and you don’t see anyone who looks like you, you feel like an outsider, like you’re not meant to be there. You start thinking: can I even be successful in this industry? It’s very empowering when we come together and help each other.”
Where do you hope to take Black Travel Creators?
“We definitely want to grow and create more of a global community. We’ve also started creating a database of Black travel content creators around the world, so we want to grow that, too. Working with brands is definitely a priority for us, and we’re in the planning stages of creating an influencer agency, helping brands to connect and work with more Black travel creators on campaigns and projects.”
A big congratulations on the Tomorrow’s Travel Leader achievement! How did it feel to be recognised by TTG?
“We were two of the only Black members on that shortlist and it felt good to be recognised in this way and for someone to see the importance of the work we’re trying to do.
“I feel that it’s definitely opened up doors – I mean we wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t for TTG! Even having it in our bio or on our LinkedIn profiles helps us stand out. Hopefully we’ll be able to do more events and network with more people as a result.”
What key steps do you think brands need to take to be more inclusive and representative of their travellers?
“This kind of change needs to start from within. I think the actual company needs to be diverse. If you have a diverse team, you’re naturally going to think about creating more diverse campaigns. It shouldn’t just be an afterthought or about ticking a box.
“I think a key starting point needs to be around the recruitment and hiring processes, and for more companies to start looking internally at themselves.
“I’d also like brands to recognise the power of the Black community more. We spend our money and we should be reflected in your marketing. I shouldn’t have to scroll for ages on your Insta feed to see someone who looks like me. We should be seen and heard.”
“We have an affiliation with the Black Travel Alliance, which is helping brands uphold their goals and statements and set KPIs to measure change. So, I’d say it’s time for brands to take responsibility, to better represent and start making this industry more accessible.”
Feeling inspired? Head to the Black Travel Creators Insta to hear more about social live events and talks. Or if you’re interested in joining the Black Travel Creators database, you can find more info here.
You can also read more about Contiki’s commitment to anti-racism (internally and externally) here.