( ENSPIRE Feature ) Ja’Vonne and Gene Harley Aspire to Equip and Prepare Black Travelers to Ensure the Best Experience Through Their Company Advantage International
ENSPIRE Contributor: Naomi Stamps
The unexpected events of 2020 delivered a heavy blow across the globe. As businesses are slowly adjusting to the new normal, many people are eagerly making travel plans to relieve themselves of pandemic-related stress. However, traveling can sometimes be a challenging task, especially for a person of color. Ja’Vonne and Gene Harley are a married couple that runs a Black travel consulting firm called Advantage International. They launched it in 1998 and plan special travel programs.
These programs have been created for groups ranging in size from 30 to over 3,000 to offer a way to explore the world in style. Besides organizing events for travelers such as religious groups and promotional packages for large corporations, Advantage International has also partnered with well-known networks to give promotional trips to their audiences. Networks that Advantage International has worked with include CBS, ABC, and Radio One.
Advantage International carefully analyzes planning details in order to make the travel process as stress-free as possible. Over the years, the company has taken groups to witness various cultures and cuisines they had never experienced before. Some areas they have visited include South Africa, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, and Brazil. Ja’Vonne and Gene Harley believe the purpose of travel is to connect, explore, and leave an impression. One impression they have made includes supplying donations to a hospice in South Africa and creating a playground there. It’s inspiring that this couple performs selfless acts besides helping others to travel.
ENSPIRE spoke with Ja’Vonne and Gene Harley about their business and how the pandemic affected them.
How did you discover your love for travel?
Gene: Travel has always been a part of my life. We looked forward to those family vacations to exotic destinations, and I still do.
Ja’Vonne: Domestically, my family went on road trips, and alternating summers, we would fly to Houston, Texas, to stay with my uncle, and alternatively, my cousins would come to visit with us in D.C. Internationally, I went to Munich, Germany, as an exchange student in high school. I knew I needed to see the world after that!
Starting a business can be difficult and Advantage International has been running for a long time now. What was the hardest thing about launching your business?
Working to get the Travel Industry to recognize the obvious value of the African American Traveler. We bring $1.09 billion dollars to the table and are still overlooked as much now as we were in 1998 when we started Advantage.
Read more of Ja’Vonne and Gene’s interview in our Entertainment and Gift Guide Issue! Get your print or digital copy here.
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