Anita Francois is not your typical travel industry entrepreneur. Born and raised in London, she embarked on a journey that led her from studying archaeology to becoming the founder and CEO of the Black Travel Summit. Her unique path in life and her passion for representation and recognition have made her a prominent figure in the Black travel movement.
Francois' journey to the world of travel began during her graduate studies at University College London, where she focused on archaeology with an emphasis on the African diaspora. As she delved deeper into her studies, Francois developed a keen interest in exploring the stories of Afro-indigenous cultures and travelers throughout history. However, it was around 2015 that she stumbled upon the Black travel movement.
Seeing individuals who looked like her and who were advocating for change in the travel industry filled her with inspiration. She realized that the Black travel community needed recognition and support. In 2018, she took the leap and started her first travel brand, which eventually evolved into the Black Travel Summit (BTS), officially founded in 2019.
Francois firmly believed that for the Black Travel Summit to make a real impact, it needed to be an in-person event. She wanted to create a physical space where members of the Black travel community could connect, be recognized, and celebrated. This decision stemmed from her own experiences attending conferences where very few people resembled her.
Recognizing the challenges faced by many within the Black travel community, such as difficulties raising capital or gaining visibility, Francois wanted to provide a platform for these entrepreneurs, travel advisors, tour operators, and organizers. Her goal was clear: to communicate to the world that the Black travel community existed and was thriving.
The Black Travel Summit caters to a wide range of individuals within the tourism industry. Attendees include those who have launched therapy brands for flight attendants, started clothing lines for travelers, and travel advisors specializing in serving the Black community. Tour operators, planners, and suppliers also come together to connect and collaborate.
Francois' mission for BTS extends beyond empowering the Black travel community; it's about creating opportunities both within and outside the community. The summit serves as a catalyst and ecosystem for cultivating relationships and partnerships that benefit everyone involved.
Each year, BTS features an exciting lineup of speakers and influencers from various sectors. Notable figures such as Martinique Lewis from Black Travel Alliance, Karl Shakur, Sharinda Williams-Simmons, and Tee George have graced the stage. These influencers discuss topics that are important to them and actively engage with attendees.
The summit covers a wide range of subjects, including diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) opportunities in the media, trends in the Black travel space, dispelling myths about adventure travelers within the community, building wealth, the power of partnerships, and technology. Attendees can expect thought-provoking discussions and practical insights to shape the future of Black travel.
Francois, with her background as an archaeologist and her commitment to promoting representation in the travel industry, has carved out a unique path in the world of entrepreneurship. Through the Black Travel Summit, she has provided a platform for the Black travel community to thrive, connect, and create opportunities.
Her vision and dedication serve as an inspiration not only to those within the Black travel movement but to anyone looking to make a positive impact in their field. As BTS continues to grow and evolve, Anita remains at the forefront, driving change, and ensuring that the voices of Black travelers are heard and celebrated.