When it comes to the image of luxury travel, the photo usually consists of white travelers enjoying five-star amenities against the backdrop of an extravagant hotel lobby with a hefty price tag. What you rarely see, oftentimes, on these glossy campaigns are black travelers. One entrepreneur and travel enthusiast wanted to create a business that would change that.
Former Fortune 500 sales executive Claire Soares left corporate America to create Up In The Air Life, a company focused on curating luxury experiences around the world geared toward African American travelers. “As I began to travel more leisurely, and coupled with my thirst to live life to the fullest, I was inspired to create Up in the Air Life to give people who looked like me an effort to share and create those quality experiences,” says Soares to BLACK ENTERPRISE. “I couldn’t find travel companies that were providing luxury to people who looked like me—most of the market offering that targeted people of color was predominantly budget travel—even still today. I wanted to share my love of luxury and epic experiences at an affordable price with excellent customer service.”
While Soares came with the business mindset and experience, there were challenges entering a space where there were very few faces that looked like her. “The biggest one is that black people aren’t interested or can’t afford luxury travel,” says Soares. “The spending [among] black travelers is upwards $42 billion and to date, most luxury travel companies don’t even show black people in their marketing.”
Unlike her white counterparts, it was difficult to raise the capital and get mentorship on her venture because people had trouble seeing the profitability in her business model. “The biggest challenge in the luxury travel space is being taken seriously, luckily at this point, we’ve had enough press so people can Google us and we have references at some of the largest luxury travel suppliers who can vouch for us,” she explains. “As a black-owned business in the luxury travel space, we are unicorns. The traditional luxury travel space is very [white].”
To date, the luxury travel company has over 3,000 clients who love Soares’s glamorous excursions to Greece, Colombia, and beyond. In 2018, the company surpassed the million-dollar mark in revenue for the first time. “Our first trip was a yachting trip to Croatia Yacht Week, and from then to now we offer trips to over 25 destinations around the world hitting six continents,” says Soares who creates the lavish itineraries. “Our upscale trips offer exploration through our favorite cities Southeast and Northeast Asia, a unique Chile adventure in Santiago and Patagonia, and a trip to remember in magical Iceland.”