Photo Credit: Sophia Styles.
Sophia Styles Shares Why She Supports Black-Owned Businesses When Traveling
Sophia Styles is a 28-year-old financial accountant, digital content creator, and founder of Sostyles Escapades. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she is of Cameroonian descent and also lived in Douala for eight years. She currently resides in Georgia.
Sophia has traveled extensively, visiting almost 30 countries around the world. However, one region she always seems to find herself coming back to is the Caribbean. Her love affair with the Caribbean began with her very first solo trip to Cuba.
“I will never forget my experience there, she told Travel Noire. “It was a much-needed one because it changed my perspective on life in general. Despite the huge language barrier, I was still able to connect with the people there in a way I never imagined. It’s like that saying goes: ‘Laughter is universal.’ And well, so are many other things that make us interrelated. Cuba exceeded my expectations and I cannot wait to return.”
Sophia also enjoyed her time spent in Colombia, Aruba, Jamaica, and St. Martin/St.Maarten. One of the things she loves about the Caribbean is the slower pace and laid-back way of life.
“I always feel very relaxed and chill in the Caribbean. I think I fit right in. I have been mistaken for an island gal on multiple occasions. I usually take it as a compliment and just run with it! One of my life goals is to invest in the Caribbean and in Africa. Both have that unmatched sense of freedom where you have a chance to really stop and smell the roses. I love that. Also, most locals I have met in the Caribbean are just always so joyful and filled with so much happiness. They have so much pride, and deservingly so.”
During her travels, Sophia makes it a point to support Black-owned businesses, and is intentional in seeking out Black-owned shops, boutiques, restaurants, and hotels. She’s constantly researching Black-owned hotels, and keeps a list of ones she looks forward to visiting in the future.
“I have been to several Black-owned hotels and the majority of my experiences have completely blown my mind. The ones that received a 5-star rating from me really stood out due to their very attentive and caring staff. They made me forget that I was traveling because they made me feel right at home.”
One Black-owned hotel that she highly recommends is Jnane Tamsna in Marrakech, Morocco. With five outdoor pools, a clay tennis court, and farm to table meals prepared using ingredients from their lush garden, it is definitely worth a stay.
“Jnane Tamsna is an exceptional oasis giving luxurious authentic Moroccan vibes. The owner lives on the property with her family and they are such amazing and humble people. Even if you don’t stay here, I highly recommend at least going for dinner or attending any one of the events they may have going on. The ambiance is everything.”
Another favorite of Sophia’s is El Zafiro in the Caribbean island nation of St. Maarten.
“El Zafiro is a beachfront boutique hotel located on the Dutch side of the island. Being a smaller establishment means they are able to provide that extra attention and personalized service. I loved the hospitality. They treated me like family and I will always cherish that.”
“Just like many establishments in St. Maarten, they were terribly hit by Hurricane Irma, and to make matters worse, as we all know, COVID-19 came and took over 2020. So I’m sure any contribution to the tourism industry is highly appreciated at this time. And we should definitely keep our brothers and sisters in mind when seeking accommodations.”
For anyone traveling to St. Maarten, Sophia also recommends supporting two other Black-owned businesses on the island: A Touch of Handz by Brian and Captain’s Rib Shack.
“A Touch of Handz by Brian is mobile so they come to you. I had a full-body massage right on the beach at El Zafiro. Not only was it the most amazing and relaxing massage ever, it also came with fruits and champagne. Talk about Black excellence.”
“Captain’s Rib Shack is on Main Street in Simpson Bay. You can’t miss it. Their food was so good I ate there at least four times during my stay. They serve large mouthwatering portions at a very affordable price and the staff is super friendly. It’s easy to see why the slogan for SXM is One Friendly Island. Just ask for Bri and tell her Sophia sent you.”
Sophia says 2020 was a year that made her so much more intentional about supporting Black-owned businesses.
“There are so many reasons to support Black-owned anything, and quite frankly, it is a bit shameful because I should have been this aware. In the same breath, I give myself grace because sometimes the lack of awareness comes from lack of knowledge, among other things. I love being Black. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still have so much to learn about the importance of my Blackness and the spaces it fills.”
“It is very important that Black-owned hotels are supported more for their growth and future visibility in the market. Black people contribute massively to the travel industry but are still underrepresented. Representation and inclusivity truly matter, and these Black-owned businesses need our support to continue to thrive and exist.”
Sophia is currently planning her upcoming trips to Brazil and Peru. Other goals of hers for this year include going back to Africa and bungee jumping. She is also focusing on her brand and curating unique and unforgettable travel experiences for her clients.
“Despite the naysaying travel shamers (I cannot even believe this is a thing) I will continue to promote sustainable and responsible travel during this time. Travel is a necessity and there are many countries that heavily rely on tourism to make a living.”
You can follow Sophia at @sostyles.