Carl and Ashley Merritt are the founders of the Black Excellence Travel Team. They create opportunities to travel and meet others through shared experiences and new memories.
CD: What inspired you to create Black Excellence Travel?
Carl: It started with a milestone birthday celebration. A year before my 30th birthday, I mentioned to friends that I wanted to celebrate in Cancun, Mexico. I wanted 30 friends to travel with me to celebrate my 30th birthday. We found a hotel and asked our friends to join us. It grew from there. We eventually had 122 people on that trip. We had such a great time. After the trip, my friends told me that we had to do it again, and that is how it started. Ashley turned 30 the following year, so we decided to do it again. We invited her family, friends, and the people who joined us the previous year and went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. That year we had 200 people. It was such a great experience. Our upcoming trip in 2021 will be our third year. We are traveling to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. We have 607 people who paid their deposits.
CD: Are there scheduled activities or excursions during these trips?
Ashley: We rented a yacht, had a DJ, and enjoyed a party on the boat in Cancun and Cabo San Lucas. We do not have one big group excursion. We always have a welcome meet and greet event. It is usually a cocktail mixer.
Carl: There is no set itinerary. We get a group of black people at the same resort and create our own fun. We gather at the pool, the beach, and it goes from there. It is more about traveling together and having a great time while we are there.
Ashley: For our Dominican Republic trip, we have a pool party and nightclub outing planned. We are staying at the resort the entire time. Everything is there. We want to create a balance of activities or excursions without doing too much.
CD: What goals do you have for the Black Excellence Travel Team?
Carl: My father always said, Giving is the key to everything”. We want to incorporate service into these trips. We want to create a service-oriented activity to give back to the communities in these countries. For us, it is not just about partying; we want to do some good wherever we go.
Ashley: We also want to create a scholarship program for students who wish to study abroad. We want to sponsor someone who may not be able to afford the opportunity to study abroad.
Carl: I studied abroad twice in college. The impact it had on me changed my life. We want to give that opportunity to someone else. Studying abroad is impactful.
CD: Why do you think it is important to expose black children to travel?
Ashley: Traveling allows you to choose the type of life you want to live based on your exposure. Exposing children to travel also allows them the opportunity to learn more. It broadens their horizons.
CD: It seems like there has been an explosion of black travel and black travel groups lately. Why do you think that is?
Ashley: Social media helped a lot. When you see others do it and post their experiences, that is inspiring. I believe black travel is self-care. We have so much on our plates, especially now. Allowing a moment to put everything on pause and take a break is necessary. Exploring new countries, cultures, and creating new memories is an act of self-care. Being in a different environment allows you to release the stresses of life.
CD: Are there other locations Black Excellence Travel Team would like to explore in the future?
Carl: We are excited about Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic, in 2021. We want to go to Jamaica, Costa Rica, Africa, Spain, Greece, and more. We are in the early stages, but we remain focused and looking towards the future.
CD: For the 2020 Punta Cana trip, what adjustments have you made considering COVID-19?
Carl: It is all about safety. We update our followers with details of our travel experiences at the airport. Also, we are documenting the resort’s sanitation process. We want to show all these experiences to help people feel comfortable.
CD: Can people still join the 2021 trip?
Carl: Yes, our host hotel has over 700 rooms. We are still accepting deposits.
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.