Pablo Segarra grew up somewhere in the middle.
As a kid in the Bronx, he frequently listened to his grandparents poetically describe his ancestral homeland of Puerto Rico. They’d discuss the food, the climate, the people, and all the things that made it such a spectacular place. Though beautifully told, hearing these stories made Segarra feel like an outsider in the U.S. and one in Puerto Rico, too. Until he grew up and realized he could be the bridge to both via his company, The Latinx Travel Club, and help others connect with their roots.
“We noticed that there are a lot of people in the Latinx diaspora growing up in the states that are ‘not American enough,'” Segarra shared as to why he and his co-founder, Michael Watson, started their company in 2019. “But, at the same time, when we actually traveled to the countries that we’re from, we’re tourists. We saw this and wanted to create a bridge and foster these connections and make them deeper.”
So, the two got together and created a non-profit with the aim of helping to plan trips around the globe for those looking to connect with their familial roots. And it was absolutely an idea with merit. According to the National Tour Association, Hispanic people account for more than $56 billion in leisure travel every year. Hispanic people also take, on average, two more trips than non-Hispanics every year and outspend non-Hispanics by an average of $300 per trip.
However, the universe had other plans for Segarra and Watson. COVID-19 hit just as they were getting off the ground, and it looked as if their dreams would be dashed, but there was no stopping this train. In fact, the time away only allowed Segarra and Watson to level up their idea into what is now a massive digital platform that includes its own website and major social media followings that celebrate the Latin American experience in all its glory.
“Michael and I said, you know what, there’s something here. Let’s do what millennials do best. Let’s just go to social media,” Segarra said of their pivot to creating a page that they felt would represent “the faces of the travel industry that are not often shown.”
To date, the duo has amassed a following of more than 150,000 dedicated fans. And in doing so, they noticed that their followers weren’t just passive social users, but rather, a group of forward-thinking entrepreneurs, creators, and a truly diverse cross-section of what it means to be Latinx. And now, they’re bringing many of those followers together for the inaugural Latinx Travel Summit, a three-day event to both celebrate Latinx Heritage Month and provide Latinx entrepreneurs in travel, media, tech, and startup investing with their own platform to share their ideas.
“Our inaugural Latinx Travel Summit is gathering one of the youngest, most diverse, and fastest-growing populations in the world to celebrate the ingenuity and innovation of Latinx entrepreneurs,” Segarra said in a statement via e-mail. “We are building community by facilitating business collaborations, exploring diversity, enhancing connections, and celebrating our culture through the arts.”
Over the three-day weekend, events include panel discussions, meet and greets, local brand opportunities, and talks from the likes of UN representatives, travel show hosts, and much more. Or, as Segarra put it, “like the SXSW for the Latinx community.”
To ensure this event hits its highest potential, Segarra and Watson are also donating a portion of the proceeds to fund local charities and the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization Nexus Latinx, which provides scholarships for Latinx college students to travel on cultural immersion trips.
“The travel industry is coming out of this severe pandemic and trying to find ways to really grow,” Segarra said. “We can grow this out together. We can blow this out together.”
See more about the lineup, and get tickets to the summit, here.