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Travel isn’t the only thing that Zim Ugochukwu is passionate about, but it certainly fills most of her schedule. From her first travels with the anti-tobacco campaign on her college campus to living in Bangalore for a year to traveling around the world organizing fundraisers and events to starting a brand new travel site called Travel Noire, Zim has learned a few very important things about travel. What’s even more exciting, is that she is planning on sharing those insights at the upcoming New York Travel Festival.
Zim had a few extra minutes to share her plans for the Trav Fest as well as a few ideas about the future of travel and the flourishing black travel community.
What will you be doing at the NY Trav Fest?
We’re going to be talking about the burgeoning African American diaspora travel “movement” as some people like to say even though we have been traveling for eons. But we’ll be talking specifically about the implications in the travel industry: who is spending money and where, what brands will be most popular, those kinds of things. We’ll also look at how the world starts to change once you see different kinds of travelers and different faces in the travel world.
What else are you looking forward to at the festival?
I came last year and opened a panel; I really enjoyed connecting with live panelists and learning what their backgrounds were. Some of them were professional bloggers, some of them were on tourism boards, some of them were entrepreneurs, and there was just a great eclectic mix of people. So, I’m really excited to meet a new mix of people this year.
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you go from cloning genes in college to traveling around the world and starting Travel Noire?
In college, I was a biologist by trade and I balanced that with political science and sociology minors. Even with all that, I wanted to balance out my experiences by getting involved in global affairs and getting involved in what was happening in the world. In college, I was the vice president of an anti-tobacco organization and we did a lot of traveling to different places in the US. And that sort of wet my appetite for traveling. When I graduated, I got the opportunity to move to India. So, I moved everything to Bangalore where I worked for little over a year and traveled throughout Southeast Asia for dirt cheap. I booked nine dollar tickets from Bangalore to Kuala Lumpur and my friends looked at me like I had done a magical thing. With all of that, I started to want to create a community where travelers could share their adventures and connect with other travelers and impart a little wisdom.
I also started looking at travel brands and who they were catering to and I noticed that the majority of people in the ads out there were white men. No one was really recognizing or communicating with the black travel community or the impact we have on the industry. And so Travel Noir was created with the idea of designing trips around African American travelers and other underrepresented groups. Travel Noire focuses on three phases of travel: dreaming, planning and experiencing. Travel starts with dreaming of a destination and then you eventually start planning on how to get there. Once you get there, you want to maximize your experience while you’re there. Travel Noire helps you through every stage.
Do you have any personal travel plans in your near future?
You know, I would love to travel to the North Pole. I think it is breathtaking and I have never been there before. Iceland and Antarctica are also places I would love to see.
We have been seeing some pretty exciting stuff happening with Travel Noire. What does the future look like?
Yeah! We are always in a constant state of development and we have a big launch coming up this summer that we are very excited about. Our team is starting to buckle down and prepare for this launch. Travel Noire is interesting because it can go in so many directions. We have identified a few different areas that we want to operate in and we want to focus on certain kinds of brands and gear types that our audience would really benefit from. Some products will be more business oriented, others will be much more consumer oriented, but overall, Travel Noire is going to grow exponentially in the next 18-24 months. It’s really exciting!
You have spent a lot of time talking with travelers around the globe. Is there a question you wish more travelers would ask?
Probably something along the lines of, “I’ve booked my first solo trip, where do I go from here?” So, maybe they were scared or hesitant about solo travel but they did it, they booked their trip and took the first step and now they are willing to say that they need a little help getting the rest of the way. That is inspiring to me and I love it when I see it.
Anything else readers should know?
They should come and see me at Trav Fest! I would love to talk to them and answer any questions they might have. We also just launched the TN District which is a digital space where people can come together and make travel plans, find great deals and get great advice from locals. The District is only open for a certain number of participants at the moment, but it will expand in the future. Take advantage of this great tool!
Catch Zim at one or both of these exciting NY Trav Fest events:
Wednesday, April 15th. 2-4 p.m. at the New York Times (620 8th Avenue, NYC)
Zim will be speaking alongside Charlise Ferguson (Senior Editor, Social Media, The Daily Beast), Evita Robinson (Creator, Nomadness LLC), and Yolanda Sangweni (Entertainment Editor, ESSENCE.com).
Pre-registration is required but event tickets are not needed. Register today.
Saturday, April 18th. 10-10:50 a.m. at Concert Hall (150 W. 83rd St. NYC)
Zim will be talking about the issues facing the black travel community as well as other trends and nuances that are taking place in the travel industry. She’ll be joined by Cherae Robinson (Founder Tastemakers Africa App), Patrick Bennett (Co-Founder Uncommon Caribbean), and Evita Robinson (Creator Nomadness LLC).
Purchase your tickets today to the NY Trav Fest on April 18th and 19th.
Use these discount codes to buy tickets for the NY Trav Fest:
ITM15 = This gets you $5 off weekend traveler tickets.
ITMIND = This takes $25 off Weekend Industry tickets.
Visit http://nytravfest.com/tickets to book today!