The COVID-19 pandemic may have halted travel plans to Europe but innovative entrepreneurs in the sector are learning how to pivot their businesses and bring the travel experience into a virtual space. One Black woman entrepreneur was able to bring her Black-culture-themed Parisian tours online just in time for Black History Month.
Monique Y. Wells is the founder of the Wells International Foundation, an organization designed to empower Black people within the arts, literature, and education. In collaboration with Entree to Black Paris, she has launched a new virtual tour of Paris for viewers to learn about the Black history of the city in the comfort of their home.
Wells says she was drawn to France and French culture from an early age. When she got the chance once she was older and minored in French at the University of Pennsylvania, she fell in love with the city and learning about its vast history.
“There are many things I love about living here,” said Wells to BLACK ENTERPRISE via email. “I like to say that Paris is a city of little villages, each of which has its own vibe. It is cosmopolitan, yet intimate. It is a delightful city to explore by foot, with surprises around almost every corner. And it is the perfect “jumping-off place” from which to visit the rest of the world!”
In a time where more Black Americans are taking advantage of opportunities abroad and learning more about the history of the diaspora, Wells felts it was important to create a tour that teaches about contributions of African immigrants and African Americans that have historical ties to the famous city.
“Living in Paris, I have observed that the Black experience in France is more nuanced than it is in the U.S. The history, culture, and contemporary life of the entire African diaspora is deeply and irrevocably interwoven into the fabric of Paris. The stories of Africans, Afro-French, and Blacks from other parts of the world are just as much a part of this fabric as are the stories of African Americans,” she said.
“We wanted to avoid having our clients feel as though they were “simply watching another YouTube video” or attending their “umpteenth” Zoom call. We wanted to make the experience informative and FUN, with multiple opportunities for real-time interaction and Q&A.”