The pursuit of #Blackgirlluxury is putting a target on Black women’s backs and bank accounts.
In September 2022, a group of travelers—the majority of them Black women—alleged that they were scammed out of $3,000 each for what appeared to be an all-inclusive and exclusive vacation in Seychelles.
Yacht’Nik, the event organizer, was accused of lying about the amenities and itinerary it advertised to attendees. The group and its owner, Jeremy Moore, are also accused of pocketing an excessive profit without paying the vendors it supposedly hired to provide guests with luxury services.
According to Shameka Jennings, a Yacht’Nik participant who wrote about her journey on Medium, there were several red flags from the beginning.
“Late summer, less than two months from the trip, myself and other guests noticed we hadn’t received much information from the event organizer to properly plan for the trip,” recalls Jennings. “By this time, we all had finished making payments.”
In addition to getting flight details only a week before the scheduled event, Jennings and other women claim that the yachts, catered meals, premium liquor, and private parties promised to them were never provided once they arrived in Seychelles. Instead, they paid extra for meals and slept in boats with maintenance issues in the thick of monsoon season.
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No one from Yacht’Nik’s team responded to our requests for comment.
Black Americans are the travel industry’s billion-dollar segment, and many Black women have moved abroad permanently or begun booking international trips at higher rates. For the latter, their reasons run from taking a mental health break to working remotely and learning more about their African ancestry.
#Blackgirlluxury introduced a new type of Black woman traveler: one chasing the glitz and glamor of globetrotting. Black travel influencers like Oneika Raymond, Jessica Nabongo, and Ciara Johnson curate Instagram posts inspiring the mood boards of Black women who hope one day they, too, can afford a life of leisure.
The Yacht’Nik story is, unfortunately, an example of how scammers are taking advantage of this. In 2021, one year after COVID shut down international travel, Americans filed 53,891 reports related to travel scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). That put travel scams in the top ten categories monitored by the FTC, with a total of $95 million stolen by impersonators during that year alone. The elderly were more likely to fall for scams, but people between the ages of 30-39 came in second and lost more money than any other age group.
A complaint against Yacht’nik was filed with the FBI.
Americans who have filed reports against fraudulent travel packages have spent roughly $1,000 on the scams, more than the median weekly salary of a Black woman.
Yacht’Nik presented itself as an extravagant opportunity to explore Africa at an unusually lower cost compared to the industry standard. Experts say that’s the first clue something was wrong.
“When you see premium vacation properties for an ‘up-market experience’ advertised for super cheap prices and below-market rent, that’s usually a bad sign,” explains Kyle Kroeger, founder of the travel agency Via Travelers. “Verify that the company is licensed and insured. If [the trip is] a package deal that includes air flights and other extras, you would also want to ensure you get detailed information about the itinerary, including what is included and what is not.”
That’s a mistake Jennings admits she made when booking with Yacht’Nik.
“I’m an event planner by trade. I know how this is supposed to work,” Jennings later wrote in her Medium post. She mentioned that a few days before the trip’s scheduled start, she found that none of the yachts listed in the itinerary Yacht’Nik provided had actually been paid for.
When vetting travel agencies, Tashieka Brewer, founder of the luxury travel concierge Pink Girls Run the World, said she looks “at when the organization was established and where it is located. Doing a deep dive on online travel review sites and Facebook groups to see what others are saying about the company has helped me avoid scams.”
Sunil Metcalfe, sales director at luxury travel company Black Tomato, added this: “Understand booking policies before you book” and only pay companies or agents “that have clearly outlined booking policies.”
Yacht’Nik’s website promoted its Seychelles excursion as a “pilot trip” for its African diaspora destinations, according to Jennings recount. Yet, others interviewed about the experience said they heard about issues with Moore’s other travel ventures, with guests repeating the same alleged claims of fraud for trips organized in the Caribbean.
All travelers are encouraged to be hypervigilant when investigating travel deals. Websites with professionally shot photos and persuasive marketing language may still be illegitimate if they lack the answers to important questions, such as: Where can I find information about this company’s track record, and is this published unambiguously on its website? Are there any complaints or positive testimonials from previous customers, and how easy is it to find them?
A list of vetted travel agencies can be found here.