Innovative Programs to Bolster the Number of African American Travelers

17 July 2013

Provided by author Elaine Lee, as part of a feature article, Mind the Gap: Exploring the African American Adventure Travel Market

Member of the Expedition Denali team, supported by NOLS, who set out on June 13 to be the first group of black climbers to scale the peak with the lofty goal of inspiring more diversity outdoors.

Several environmental organizations are working with minority youth to help them establish a relationship with the natural world.

  • The San Francisco-based nonprofit Nature Bridge provides hands-on science learning opportunities at several national parks in California and Washington State for more than 30,000 students every year. And as the nation includes more people of color, the group has expanded its mission to educate the future leaders who will decide the fate of publicly protected lands.

  • Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings Program connects kids from city neighborhoods with the outdoor and works to build their skills as stewards of wilderness.

  • Similar programs supported by the Outdoor Foundation, the charitable arm of the Outdoor Industry Association, work to boost participation of young people who represent future users and consumers of outdoor products. “It seems that companies large and small are realizing that outdoor recreation among young people is a business imperative,” said Outdoor Foundation executive director Christine Fanning. “It’s not just a charitable endeavor it is core to their bottom line.”

  • Another steward is the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), which encourages under-represented members of the population to seek recreation experiences outdoors as well as career opportunities in service of the environment. The NOLS recently sponsored Expedition Denali, a team of black men and women who climbed to the very top of North America in June 2013. Although many African-American alpinists have reached the Mount Denali summit over the years since it was first climbed in 1913, Expedition Denali was the African American first group to do so and their accomplishment is a courageous symbolic act meant to inspire a new generation of all races and ethnicities, and particularly minority youth, to travel into the natural world in search of adventure—and join in the movement to help protect it