Elevating the travel experience in Nova Scotia for Black explorers

By Steve Gow

An East Preston woman is hoping to elevate the travel experience for thousands of Nova Scotians as well as potential tourists from outside the province.

Since December 2019, Rene Boudreau has been operating Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia in order to promote local Black-owned businesses as well as showcase Nova Scotia’s many adventures to a more diverse set of would-be sightseers.

“I knew that eventually, I wanted to work for myself, so I did some soul searching and thought about what I was most passionate about,” Boudreau says about how she came up with the unique tourism company.

As an avid traveller and employee of the Association of Black Social Workers, the aspiring entrepreneur knew she wanted to include both travel and community into her prospective business.

“I took my passion for travel and community and created what I like to say is a travel community and business,” says Boudreau.

Elevate and Explore started out innocently enough. Through her social media channels, Boudreau began promoting tourist destinations, Black-owned businesses and the unique outdoor experiences available in Nova Scotia by posting photos of herself and others simply enjoying themselves around the province.

“Oftentimes when I travel, I get (asked) where am I from and when I say, ‘I’m from Nova Scotia,’ most people respond with, ‘There are Black people in Nova Scotia?’” says Boudreau, adding those overseas experiences highlighted a stunning lack of representation in the marketing of local tourism, which in turn, leads to a scarcity of BIPOC sightseers.

For example, Boudreau says she has many friends who grew up in Nova Scotia their entire life. Yet they admit they've never even travelled to the province’s most iconic tourist destination, Peggys Cove.

“You go where you are represented,” says Boudreau. “So if we don’t see ourselves kayaking or skiing, for example, then we probably will feel like it’s not for us or feel like it’s not a safe place to go. I just really wanted to showcase Black people enjoying themselves in the province.”

That simple concept has certainly taken off for Boudreau.

Since she began Elevate and Explore, the business has been engaging potential tourists from outside Nova Scotia as well as obtaining a dedicated following within the province by partnering with businesses, Tourism Nova Scotia and hosting excursions such as boat cruises, Black history bike tours and more.

Now, Boudreau has her sets sights on expanding even further after being selected by the American Express-sponsored Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses mentorship program.

As one of the recipients of that program, Boudreau earned a $10,000 grant to help take Elevate and Explore to the next level.

“They also provide mentorship (and) it’s also a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs across the country,” Boudreau says of the program, noting that it has already allowed her to create more experiences for people, buy administrative equipment as well as connect with other like-minded upstarts. “I’m just really grateful that I was able to be selected.”

The next stage for Elevate and Explore will be an official website that will be geared toward boosting business, act as a portal for travel ideas and create a social network for Black businesses and tourists to connect.

“(People) will be able to go through the website and see some different Black-owned businesses or some different Black-owned B&Bs,” Boudreau says of the website she aims to launch in early December. “Hopefully that will be a good way to reach even more people.”

For more information on Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia, visit its Instagram page.

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