July 25, 2024


Travel Finishes First

The Past, Present, and Future of the Nation’s First Black-Owned Travel Agency, Henderson Travel Service

Established in 1955, the origin tale of Henderson Travel Service—both the initially Black-owned total-services travel agency in the U.S. and a pioneer of Black American travel to Africa—is rooted in the determination and resilience of one lady: Freddye Henderson. She was intent on showing her fellow Black Individuals what the earth experienced to provide them, in spite of the lots of social ills—rampant racism and sexism, in particular—that sought to preserve them out. Extra than 60 decades after the agency’s landmark first trip to Ghana, held just before industrial flights to Africa were even out there from the U.S., HTS is even now heading strong—and it’s her daughter, Gaynelle, who has saved it at the vanguard.

Gaynelle was only 8 years previous when her mom launched HTS in Atlanta, but it didn’t take very long before she began pulling her excess weight in the loved ones small business. Henderson vividly remembers her preteen years, when she and her older siblings would expend weekends in the workplace, filling out airline tickets by hand, whilst their mother labored on vacation preparing and their father taken care of the accounting. At 16, Gaynelle started off guiding team excursions on her possess and ongoing performing so in the course of her college or university years. It was a position she beloved, but right after graduation, Henderson made a decision to forge her own route.

Gaynelle Henderson’s mother and father, Freddye and Jacob, pose in entrance of Henderson Vacation Service’s Atlanta headquarters in the early 1960s.

Gaynelle Henderson

“I don’t forget consciously not wanting to be in the enterprise,” she suggests. “For the longest time, I just wished to do my have factor and was not specially fascinated in returning house.”

When Henderson’s career took her to Washington, D.C., on the other hand, she understood the internationally varied city was the great sector for an extension of HTS. She took income from her own discounts, rented out a 1-place workplace, and in 1984, Henderson Vacation Company of Washington, D.C., was born, jogging along with the Atlanta flagship.

Her timing, as it turned out, was excellent. In 1989, Henderson’s then-aged mothers and fathers were being completely ready to shut down their Atlanta operations, leaving Henderson to get more than their clients and proceed the HTS model. Leaning on her prior practical experience in management consulting, Henderson took the company a step even further than her mom and dad by growing its offerings to incorporate travel contracts for the U.S. governing administration. For 20 several years, Henderson managed two HTS divisions servicing federal government contracts, which brought in various million dollars on its very own, as nicely as leisure vacationers.

“That diversification contributed considerably to the longevity of HTS,” Henderson says. “There was no way we could have survived as a compact travel agency by way of the conclusion of commissions from airways, the world wide web, people today buying their have tickets, and ultimately even being in a position to e-book their have excursions on the web. It would’ve been tough for us to survive at the stage that we did.”