By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
Martinique Lewis likes to say she was born with the travel gene. Since she was a little girl, the 36-year-old loved visiting new places, and her parents poured into that passion.
At 9, her father got a job with United Airlines, permitting the family to fly for free.
“Even when he was working, my mom packed up me and my sister, and we were out. Travel exposed me to so many things because the world became my classroom,” said Lewis. “My whole life I’ve always loved to travel.”
Although she pursued fashion and design in college, the California native couldn’t kick her travel bug. During a weekend trip to Paris, she discovered Black Voyageurs, a booking platform for Afro-descendants. It was during this trip that she decided she wanted to dedicate her career to the Black travel movement.
“The Paris that I saw then was different from the one I had visited as a child. It wasn’t the Paris I learned about in the history books. There was no Museum of Modern Art. There was no Eiffel Tower,” said Lewis. “There was soul food, little Africa tours and the oldest Black-owned bookstore in Europe. I thought if I didn’t know about this – and I consider myself a hyper traveler – then other Black travelers don’t know either.”
In 2017, Lewis began working as a diversity and inclusion travel consultant, helping brands build robust relationships with African-American travelers and tourist destinations. A couple years later, she released “ABC Travel Green Book,” a guide for travelers to find Black history experiences and businesses all over the world.
Now, she’s turned the book into a mobile app of the same name.
Lewis was inspired to create the products after becoming fascinated by the story of Victor Green, a New York postal worker who developed “The Negro Motorist Green Book” in 1936.
“For us to not know who Victor and Alma D. Green are─even though we know Martin Luther King and Malcolm X─is a travesty because they literally kept our grandparents safe back in the day,” said Lewis. “I wanted to create a new version of the Green Book, but now it’s on six out of seven continents instead of just being within 50 states.”
The ABC Travel Green Book app enables users to not only find Black businesses and experiences across the globe, it also allows them to form group chats with other travelers, browse event calendars, leave reviews and build trip itineraries.
Users are also able to recommend businesses to be added to the app, which currently boasts over 20,000 Black-owned businesses worldwide.
“I want the ABC Travel Green Book app to become second nature to people, just like how they use Yelp and Facebook. I would love for people to leave a number of reviews, and I want people to also use it domestically,” said Lewis. “You don’t only have to use it when you are traveling. You can use it at home too.”
According to Stephanie Jones, founder and CEO of the Cultural Heritage Economic Alliance, the global travel and tourism industry has been remiss in ensuring small Black businesses’ inclusion and visibility. She thinks Lewis’ app is imperative for Black businesses to expand their reach and drive tourist foot traffic.
“The ABC Travel Green Book provides exposure at no cost to small Black businesses, increasing their visibility to be found by all travelers who subscribe to it,” said Jones. “There are Black businesses located in every corner of the world needing to engage with more travelers to help them become sustainable, scalable and profitable.”
In June, Jones said she traveled to Norway on a cruise. During a port stop in Honningsvag, her daughter, Daphne Clark, went to Google to search for Black businesses in the area.
They quickly located a bakery called Honni Bakes three minutes from the cruise ship, and after getting acquainted with the owner, the pair submitted the business to Lewis’ app.
“We intentionally walked over and met the owner Abdullah, a Kenyan who moved to Norway seven years ago for love. Not only did we spend money with him, we messaged others in our group to patronize the business while in port,” said Jones.
She said the owner was excited to meet them and grateful for their patronage.
“We immediately took a photo and added the business onto the ABC Travel Green Book app and wrote a review so that other Black travelers venturing to Norway know about it,” added Jones. “Martinique created an innovative technology that’s not only a valuable resource for Black businesses and Black travelers, but the global travel community at large.”
Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member.