Tourists are connecting more to their roots with some help from modern DNA technology. DNA testing has become one of the hottest trends within the past few years. Now, travellers are using these kits to help them choose their next destination. Back in May, Airbnb and 23andMe both teamed up to offer up the “heritage travel” product experience. When customers receive their results from 23andMe about their ancestry, they can use Airbnb to find the best places to stay based on their specific results. The new wave known as “DNA tourism” is taking over especially amongst the younger generations who want to feel more physically connected to their family lineage, instead of just staring at it through a screen.
“People are using their match list and when they go to places they are connecting with cousins that are still in the old country. And those cousins will go and orchestrate these huge family reunions where everyone will come together. That has been super powerful,” said Ancestry’s director of research, Jenn Utley to AFAR Travel Magazine.
The process of using Ancestry, 23andMe, or any other DNA testing service is extremely simple. You order the kit online, which can vary in price but is normally around $100, and it gets shipped to your home. From their, the packages have easy instructions to follow that basically just entail spitting into a tube, swabbing the inside of your cheek, and packaging it back up to send to the companies labs. Normally results take about a month to process, and from that point all of your results would be found on a personalized online profile! From that point on, you can begin planning what areas of the world, that you now know you came from, you want to go to.
“That great unknown concerning heritage has always been important. On top of that, people of African descent who ended up in the United States as a result of the transatlantic slave trade were directly denied knowledge and access to their specific heritages. The search for ancestral information then becomes all the more intensified,” Dianne M. Stewart, an associate professor of religion and African American studies at Emory University, told Vox Magazine.
Stewart continued on in her interview to discuss the importance of DNA tourism especially for individuals of African decent. Stewart is a huge advocate for the Black and Abroad program who originally helped advertise for this new method of tourism through their “Go Back To Africa” marketing campaign, which was used specifically for the reasoning Stewart discussed above.
As previously mentioned, Airbnb saw this as a huge business opportunity, and a convenient one. Now when individuals get their DNA results they can work personally with Airbnb to find the best and most authentic type of location to stay at to allow its customers to really embrace their ancestors ways of life.
According to data from Airbnb, the number of travelers using Airbnb on their heritage trips has increased by 500% since 2014. A large portion of that is thanks to the partnership between the company and 23andMe. Additionally, Airbnb has pages on their website which line up with specific regions that 23andMe use to tell you what areas your family was from.
Travel agents have also noticed this trend, so if you’re planning on taking a DNA tourist trip, consider planning it with an agent and tell them specifically why your travelling and what you want to accomplish. Travel agents should be able to connect you with the best resources, activities, and places to see while visiting your family’s home land to ensure you get a truly authentic experience.
Regardless of how you do it, heritage tourism is a trend that most likely will be around for years to come. Connecting to your roots is known to be one of the most gratifying human experiences, and allows you to connect with your bloodline. These services are just giving an easier way to go about it!
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.