Racial Discrimination a Reality for Black Tourists, Researcher Finds
Travel for college-educated Blacks is often tainted by “the inescapable realities” of racial discrimination, new University of Florida research finds.
Black tourists perceived racial discrimination when they stayed in hotels or motels, dined out, traveled by airplane or private vehicle and participated in activities such as shopping, going to the beach, visiting amusement parks and attending predominantly White festivals, says Dr. Cynthia Willming, who did the research for her doctoral dissertation in the University of Florida’s recreation, parks and tourism department.
“It is disappointing to discover that when African Americans are traveling for pleasure, they are faced with the inescapable realities of racial discrimination,” Willming says.
The research was based on 131 mail surveys completed early this year by a random sample of Black men and women who attended the University of Florida. The survey broadly defined the term racial discrimination as any behavior that results in rejection, harassment, threats or verbal or physical attacks simply because of race, Willming says.
The respondents’ ages ranged from 30 to 75, and 47 percent had a combined family income of $85,000 or more. All the study participants were college graduates and about half had advanced degrees, says Willming, who became a professor in the department of recreation and parks management at California State University this fall.
“These are college-educated, affluent African Americans who are perceiving discrimination during their leisure travel,” she says.
Seventy-seven percent said they perceived racial discrimination while eating at sit-down restaurants, compared with 51 percent at hotel or motel restaurants and 46 percent at fast-food restaurants, the survey showed. Shopping ranked second overall, with 72 percent of the respondents reporting discrimination, Willming says. Staying overnight in a motel or hotel was a close third, with 70 percent saying they experienced such treatment.
Dr. Stephen Anderson, professor and chairman in the department of recreation, parks and tourism, who supervised Willming’s work, said the research is overdue.
“There is a need for this study because it examines a population group that has received little attention in the tourism industry and it contributes to the body of knowledge on travel behavior and race,” he says.
The results have financial and moral implications for the travel industry, Willming says.
“Because African Americans have significant travel spending power, the tourism industry is losing money because of its discriminatory behavior,” she says.
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