Zim Ugochukwu is the founder and CEO of the popular site Travel Noire. (Photo: Zim Ugochukwu)
While scrolling Travel Noire’s Instagram page, a user can view more than 5,000 images of young Blacks globetrotting. Sights include a woman smiling in front of the ancient Coliseum in Rome and one traveler visiting the pyramids and golden sands of Giza, Egypt. Another photo shows a man proposing to his lady in Paris with the Eiffel Tower as the romantic backdrop. Wanderlust is a side effect of viewing these images, which at one time would be considered a rare sight.
“I started thinking about an idea to sort of connect travelers of color — so Black Dutch, Black French, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian and African-Americans — and share our experiences,” Zim Ugochukwu, founder of Travel Noire, told BET.com. She was working in Southern India at the time and did not see people who looked like her very often.
“I launched it with a full time job in 2013 and at first, you know, it wasn't taking up all my time, so it was just something fun to do on the side. But then I saw how quickly it was growing and I was like, 'OK I'm on to something,” she continued.
Travel Noire’s success is a testament to the need for a space where Black millennial jetsetters can share their experiences. Users, primarily 22 to 35, are highly engaged, tagging Travel Noire's Instagram page in their photos in hopes that it will be reposted for the company's 90,000 followers. The website and TravelNoireTV also features travel diaries, advice and information on glitch fares. In less than two years, Travel Noire has attracted a community of individuals interested in linking with like-minded people who want to quench their thirst for adventure.
That is how the idea for Travel Noire’s latest venture, “TNdistrict,” was conceived. “TNdistrict really came from people having been messaging me about connecting with other travelers,” Ugochukwu said.
TNdistrict is “an on-the-go chat community” for individuals who want to meet up with other travelers, share travel deals and discover new destinations. Ugochukwu said the district helps relieve some anxiety that stops people from booking their next flight abroad.
“There are three or four things that stop people from traveling typically,” Ugochukwu explains. “One is that they can't find the time off; Two, they don't have the money or they don’t think they have the money; and three is that they don't have anyone to travel with. So their friends are sort of flaking out on them at every turn so the fourth reason is maybe they don't know how to start.”
On April 3, Zim launched TNdistrict through a platform called Slack, which can be accessed online through a desktop application or a mobile app. District users can join or create “channels” for different travel-related topics. Some of the topics range from international jobs, musical festivals, couples’ travels, meet-ups and glitch fares to hot spot destinations such as Cuba, Morocco and Egypt.
"Let’s say you're planning a trip to Greece and you need to know what some of the top restaurants are or whatever the case may be. You hop into the Greece channel, scroll through and look at what everyone says and if you ask your question, within five minutes you'll have your answer,” said Oguchukwu.
Access to the TNdistrict costs $8.99 per month or $60 per year. Currently, TNdistrict has 900 members. Right now membership is closed until the summer. Ugochukwu said there is good reason for making it limited. “I think by keeping it open for a shorter amount of time, it really allows people to say yes I'm going to do this. I'm going to figure out a way to travel this year.”
So far, Ugochuku says some members have formed groups for Yacht Week and meet-ups to get to know others in their cities. Members who have signed up include flight attendants, entrepreneurs, digital nomads and others. There is a mix of seasoned travelers and newbie travelers using the service.
“Somebody wrote me a private message and told me that they are in a much more positive space than the day before they joined,” said Ugochukwu. “He said popping bottles in the club ‘wasn't my example of YOLO-ing and when I found this community’ he had a sense of pride for folks he didn't even know,” she explained of this success story.
In the meantime, the Travel Noire team remains on a mission to offer support and resources to people who want to become global citizens. Ugochukwu is already planning the next venture, called Travel Noire Experiences. Individuals will have the option of choosing from four destinations at the end of July. A total of 110 slots will be available for eight trips. Travel Noire's experience designers will build itineraries with a local guide for the trips.
Ugochukwu says Travel Noire followers can also look forward to brand partnerships in the future. “To be able to work with brands who recognize the power of the African diaspora, especially when it comes to influence, it has also been really eye-opening."
Follow Natelege Whaley on Twitter: @Natelege_
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