+ T O U R I S M 

How Tourism Can Help Boost Black Urban Spaces

Byron A. Nicholas, AICP - August 1, 2018

Kings Theater, Flatbush, Brooklyn -  Courtesy of Garrett Ziegler via  Flickr

Kings Theater, Flatbush, Brooklyn - Courtesy of Garrett Ziegler via Flickr


Tourism is a viable source of income for millions of people around the world. Although the United States has the largest travel economy in the world, at $488 billion, people in communities throughout the world rely on the revenue from tourists to make ends meet. The World Travel and Tourism Council has found that the tourism industry consists of 10% of the world’s GDP and 1 in every 10 jobs are supported by the industry.

In America, cities and towns invests millions of dollars to lure tourists to their destinations. Most of those investments go towards downtown streetscape improvements, sport arena rehabilitation projects, wayfinding, crime prevention tactics, public transportation and improvements. The goal of these investments are to create an ultimate user experience for visitors. 

In contrast, little investments from government go towards communities of color and specifically Black spaces. If low-middle income communities can utilize tourism as a meaningful source of income in other countries then the same logic can be applied to low-middle income black communities in the United States.  

There needs to be a larger interest to increase tourism in Black urban spaces throughout America. Advocating for more black tour guides and bringing tourists to Black urban spaces can have many positive impact ranging from economic to social and cultural benefits. Some advantages for tourism in Black urban spaces can:

1: Increase business for the local economy through local mom and pop stores. 

2:  Provide a primary or secondary source of income for Black tour guides.

3: Introduce people from other cultures to foods that represent Africa and its diaspora. 

4:  Raise awareness of Black history in a community. 

5:  Raise the level of compassion understanding and respect for black spaces and communities. 

Cities such as Atlanta, New York and the Washington D.C/Alexandria V.A regions offers great opportunities to experience African-American history and culture. Visitors in Atlanta, GA can experience Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy from his birth place to the many cultural centers he has inspired. D.C/Alexandria VA offers a series of museums, theaters, houses and restaurants owned by prominent Black owned figures and Howard University, a Historically Black University that has paved the way for many successful Black leaders including Zora Neal Hurston, Carter G. Woodson, and Thurgood Marshall. In New York,

Harlem is known to be the prominent quintessential African-American neighborhood with unique cultural sites and amenities. Over time other note-worthy African/Caribbean-American neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn and Queens such as Flatbush, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Jamaica have surfaced, offering unique cultural experiences.

These cities and a few others across America have large Black cultural influences that can offer a unique taste to a visitor's palette. Equally as important, there are American historic and cultural sites that are situated in Black neighborhoods throughout the country that are worth seeing.  

Black spaces and neighborhoods have interesting stories to tell, compelling people to meet, taste-worthy foods to and riveting cultural institutions that can all be successfully curated from a Black cultural perspective. 

The benefits of tourism in black communities are endless.  

Check out Steps on Becoming an Independent Neighborhood Curator (Tour Guide) to find out more on the ins and outs of being a Neighborhood Curator including how to get your start in the industry and pointing out some of its limitations.