Businessman and serial entrepreneur Reggie Cummings loves to travel. And he wanted to create a community where Black travelers could get others to share their experiences and even travel together. So, he created a Facebook community for people who share an interest in cultivating new friendships and epic experiences through international worldwide travel. Today, it has more than 11,600 members.
Cummings, an information technology project manager for Fidelity for nine years, looks to turn the community into a full-blown business. Here, he tells TNJ.com just how.
TNJ.com: Why did you start Black Travel Movement?
Reggie Cummings: The simple answer is that I was very inspired. The story of how I became inspired goes like this…
When I was a young man, a Catholic nun who was a huge influence on my life once said to me that “a library card and a passport are two of the things that will take your education past what you learn in the classroom. That quote has resonated with me for the last 35-40 years. The first time I left Boston as a kid was on a school trip to Chicago. The experience was proof positive to me that leaving your surroundings to go somewhere you’ve never been has a profound effect on your perspective. I truly believe that physical boundaries help to establish psychological boundaries on our thinking, vision and perspective. When we go beyond the physical boundaries, we open our minds to go beyond the boundaries in our thinking, emotions and psychology. I am motivated and inspired to help everyone, particularly African Americans, come to that understanding.
TNJ.com: When did you create it?
RC: There is a very interesting story about a group of friends from my ski family who were looking to put together a trip to take a couple of dozen people on a ski trip to Japan. The trip ultimately grew to 200-plus. I wasn’t able to make it the first time but they did it again in 2016. It was on the 13-hour return flight from Japan that I got the idea of turning a ski club that I run into a year round travel and adventure club. Ultimately, I decided that it would be a hard transition to sell, so I decided to start something new. Once the ski season ended, I came up with the name Black Travel Movement, set up a Facebook group, invited 250 of my friends to invite people to join and it just kind of took off from there.
TNJ.com: Please tell me the goals behind the community.
RC: Simple. I want to encourage African Americans to step beyond the borders and boundaries that we and society have set for us and our thinking. I want us to get out there and see the world. Expand their borders and expand their thinking. The other side is that I want us to be agents of change. Most people in the world form their perception of Americans and more specifically Black Americans from movies, social media and television. Can you imagine the negative stereotypes that shape the worlds opinions of African Americans? We need to let them see another picture. The real picture of who we are.
TNJ.com: Do you plan to turn the community into a business venture? If so, how?
RC: I am sure that it will evolve into a business, but that is not my focus right now. I have always been an entrepreneur. I have owned several businesses over the past 20 years so I expect that when the time is right that I will put some of my energy and business acumen toward building it into one. One thing that i have learned about the travel industry over the years is that there is a commission built into every ticket, every pillow, every car rental, everything to do with travel pays a commission. If no one claims it, it stays with the hotel, airline, car rental company etc…Yeah, I’ll take that commission. A lot of work goes into this, so I have actually earned it.
TNJ.com: What are your goals for 2016 with the community?
RC: To build a diverse community of African American travelers. I think diversity is important. I want a broad range of professions, interests, backgrounds and experiences. I also want age diversity. Past that, it is important to build a rock-solid foundation. I want to do it right. I want this organization to be known for quality, excellence, and for an outstanding travel experience with awesome people.
TNJ.com: What seems to be the most popular destination for your members?
RC: We intentionally picked popular “bucket list” destinations for our first few trips. Dubai, Greece, Cuba, Italy, and France. I am really looking forward to the time when we can do some “outside the box” and special interest trips. I am specifically looking forward to our 2018 trip to Africa.
TNJ.com: What do you enjoy the most about traveling?
RC: New experiences and meeting new people. I love to experience cultures that Ive only read about or seen on television, or in the movies. One of the first things I do when I go somewhere is to bring up an image of the globe, look at where I am and then look at where I came from. It sounds kind of corny but just doing that fills me with joy, hope and peace. One more thing… FOOD. I am a total foodie and I love eating great foods from around the world.