Photo Credit: Photo by Joe Chea
Meet Lawrence Phillips, Founder Of Green Book Global, The First Black Travel Review Site
Part of being successful in business is knowing how to identify a pain point in your industry. Lawrence Phillips, CEO and founder of Green Book Global did just that by creating the first Black travel review site. Some want to know before booking that flight or cruise whether X country or city is reasonably safe for Black people. This stems from good sense, not paranoia. Thanks to the internet, The culture can share their good, bad and ugly travel experiences like never before.
“If someone were to say, ‘why can’t a Black traveler simply use Trip Advisor?’ I would say that reviews don’t reflect guest demographics,” Lawrence told Travel Noire. “We live in a time where unconscious and conscious bias is prevalent, so the experience of a white person will likely be different from that of a Black person. Many employees alter their level of service based on their own preconceived notions. Therefore, having a Black person say that a destination was amazing, or this excursion with this tour guide was excellent goes a long way because I know that this person looks like me.”
Lawrence was born in Massachusetts but you might hear a Bajan accent now and again. He knows from experience how toxic burnout can be, but the birth of his business was the silver lining. After nearly a decade as an IT consultant and having to travel between Atlanta and San Diego weekly, Lawrence was running on fumes. In 2015, he quit his job in pursuit of world travel. When globetrotting, there are two things he can’t do without: his cell phone and hair clippers, just in case the overseas barbers can’t measure up.
“While traveling I noticed two things,” Lawrence said. “One, it takes a really long time to plan for a trip and two, I was nervous going to certain destinations not knowing how I would be received. In Paris, I ran into a Black woman at a hostel and mentioned that I loved chocolate. She said ‘you should go to Belgium.’ My question was one many Black people ask: ‘is Belgium safe for Black people?’ She assured me it was fine and the next day, I went to Brussels. I really needed that co-sign from another Black person and if I didn’t run into her, I assure you, I would not have gone.”
The name Green Book Global pays homage to the Negro Motorist Green Book, published in 1936 by Victor Hugo Green. This book was key to informing Black Americans of the hotels, restaurants and other businesses they could safely patronize. Times have changed for the better, but only to a point. The infamous sundown towns referenced in Green’s book all those years ago, are still a problem for Black travelers in the US today. Green Book Global takes Green’s vision and expands it; allowing people to make informed travel decisions.
Browse through more than 5000 travel tips written by Black travelers across 400 destinations. You can adjust the filters according to your desired destination, travel style, preferred lodging and more. Green Book Global is a one- stop shop; allowing you to book hotels, flights, activities and travel insurance. Need additional incentives? You can be paid for booking and leaving reviews if you become a Gold or Platinum member. The basic membership is free but doesn’t have the cash back perk.
Any founder wants to see their business thrive, but balancing that with family is important. Whether taking his daughter for long walks or getting ice cream, Lawrence enjoys life’s simple pleasures. His wife and daughter sometimes accompany him on trips.
“Most of the trips I have taken with my family have been to Barbados, Atlanta, Boston, or Martha’s Vineyard,” Lawrence said. “I did a 3-week trip to West Africa right before the pandemic and visited Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria. COVID has definitely put a damper on things and it’s a bit more challenging now with a two- year- old. But we make it work. Our last trip was to St. Martin in February with two other Black families. We had a blast. We were able to rotate babysitting duties so we each had an opportunity to turn-up a bit!”