Black millennial travel is at an all-time high, with many Black travelers enjoying solo travel, as well as seeking group travel businesses that cater to all of their needs during their international excursions. One of those businesses is Black-owned travel company Collin Devon Events (CDE).
CDE was formed in 2015 when founder Dr. Collin Williams, Jr. gathered 27 close friends to accompany him to Antigua in celebration of him being awarded his Ph.D. Collin’s parents came to the United States at the age of 19 while his mother was pregnant, looking to give him the greatest educational opportunity.
“Realizing that education was the only way for a person from my background to climb the social ladder, my parents emphasized the importance of it. Resultantly, I excelled academically, getting a scholarship through Prep for Prep to attend private, affluent, predominantly white schools like the Collegiate School for Boys in Manhattan and then matriculating to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia,” says Williams, who doubled majored in Sociology and Africana Studies in undergrad and pursued a Ph.D. in Higher Education, focusing on the experience of diverse students, particularly student-athletes.
Collin has worked diligently in the sports industry in Player Development with the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL, social responsibility in player programming with NBA, and currently, he is the Director of Leadership and Education at RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality). While fielding the experiences of student-athletes, he has also not forgotten a promise he made.
Being born to Antiguan parents and holding dual citizenship in the United States and Antigua, Williams vowed to return home as much as possible after the passing of his mother.
Those visits would soon extend far beyond visiting his family after they returned to Antigua in 2010 fearing the inability to achieve citizenship, becoming a fruitful business for him and the Carribean island, after a feature in TIME spotlighted his impact on changing the face of travel.
Over the next 3 years, Williams would return to the beautiful island, containing 365 beaches, with an increasing number of travelers ready to be immersed in the culture, cuisine, and entertainment of Antigua. From 2015 to 2018 the group had grown from 30 to 170 people, consisting of both dedicated returners and newcomers, all thriving young Black professionals between the ages of 23-33.
Each year a perfectly curated itinerary and vibrant documentation at the conclusion of each trip only further entices those ready to acquire a new stamp in their passport. “Travel opens your eyes to limitless perspectives. Beyond what/who you see, do, experience and meet, travel provides greater context and shows you ways of living different than your own,” says Williams. While CDE is an annual trip, it gives travelers the chance to visit Antigua during carnival and Antiguan Independence Day, alternating between July and October each year.
This year as CDE approached its 5th Year Anniversary, Williams wanted to make this trip bigger and better than it had ever been, committing to taking 500 travelers for an all-inclusive, leave your wallet at home experience for 5 days and 4 nights. I was amongst those lucky enough to survive the application process, naming previous travelers I knew and acquiring a referral code from a friend that discounted the trip for all CDE alumni. In the coming days, I received a text instructing me to pack my bags—I was going to Antigua.
Among the 500 travelers, were influencers Bria Myles, Christian Combs, and BET’s 2019 Social Award winner ThatGirlJayCole, as well as a host of beauty, fashion and lifestyle influencers such as Missy Lynn and Jayla Koriyan, dancers, photographers and top DJs including one of the biggest Caribbean DJs, DJ Puffy. When planning a trip of this stature Williams aims to remove thinking from the vacation planning process and create a seamless experience from beginning to end for all in attendance.
“I plan flights, airport shuttles, transportation around the island, events, food, drinks, parties, networking opportunities, community service and more. My itinerary is packed, so people are free to opt-in and out of whichever activities they want. Further, too often, professionals of color spend thousands to travel to only be treated as second class citizens. In Antigua, I completely reframe that narrative.” says Williams of his process.
And I can assure you he delivered.
In the months leading up to the trip, we received updates from rooming accommodations, flights and finally the much-anticipated itinerary—CDE was definitely all-inclusive. We would be staying at the newly created Royalton Antigua resort, equipped with spacious and modern suites (including swim ups), bungalows, a swim-up bar, a gym, a variety of dining options, and an unforgettable bayside view. As our stay would commence a week prior to Antiguan Independence Day, the activities for CDE would launch the group into the festivities in celebration of the holiday.
The itinerary was very promising, kicking off the arrival of the first half of the group on October 24 with an evening event inspired by the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic. The next morning would start with an all-out course on whining called Soca and Sweat, taught by New York-based dancer, Royal G, with both men and women in attendance anxious to learn and brush up on their waists.
The second half of the group would arrive in time for the Mixxy Brunch, a New York-based party, which was followed by the Wet Fete bringing out the biggest and best Super Soaker water guns people could find while prepping for the trip. On Saturday the full presence of CDE would be felt, with all 500 attendees heading out for CDE’s very own J’ouvert, a traditionally large street party held until daybreak as a part of Carnival in the Carribean.
From 2 a.m. - 10 a.m. we partied in splashes of paint and powder to spins from Antiguan and American DJs. For the next four days, the excitement didn’t die down as we continued to tackle the CDE itinerary consisting of a beach workout with StayCool and CBFit, beach brunch, the 5th Anniversary Dadli Day Fete (Independence Fete), battle of the boats in which we all took the Carribean Sea by storm and a masquerade party, all with coordinated attire from prints to Antiguan flag colors. To top off the events, popsicles and ice cream treats were provided by Philly-based infused product company Cloud Cups.
After a packed five days and prior to departure CDE holds true to giving back to Antigua through community service. In past years CDE has donated backpacks and school supplies to local schools and this year the group would clean up one of the beautiful beaches. When asked why ending the trip with community service Williams said, “Simple. Antigua is my home. This is a vacation, but it’s more. Please enjoy it, but respect it—the people, the culture, the 365 beaches, everything. My mission is to introduce people to Antigua and each other, immerse them in the culture and fun, and ultimately inspire them to contribute to the economy by simply spending vacation dollars there or going further and engaging in strategic projects and initiatives like property ownership.”
Aside from giving Black millennial travelers the experience of a lifetime, Collin’s network has pumped over $1M ($2.65M XCD) into the Antiguan economy with much of it going to resorts and airlines, as well as transportation, event promoters, food distributors, and apparel makers.
As a result of Collin and CDE’s dedication to giving back to his home and his relationship with the Tourism Authority, he was named an Ambassador of Antigua, granting him some nuggets such as a meet and greet with government officials upon arrival and police escorts from the city to the resort. With 750 applicants for this year’s trip, CDE’s future looks more than promising, but as for taking CDE to other countries, Collin would like to focus on giving back to the place that gave so much to him—Antigua.
For more information on CDE and how you can join them for their next trip follow @collindevonevents on Instagram and sign up for the mailing list for updates at cdeantigua.com.
(Photo courtesy of Collin Devon Events)
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