If you’ve yet to vacation outside of the U.S., the thought of traveling 5,000 miles may seem like an intimidating and arduous pilgrimage. But Nzingha Byrd’s mission is to easily connect visitors, especially those of the Black diaspora, to destinations like Accra, Ghana.
“I feel like it’s our birthright,” says Byrd, who owns Beach Birds Travel. “It’s a life-changing experience to go to Africa.”
Even though enthusiasm overflows in her voice, it is not lost on her that many African-Americans’ desires to reconnect with the Motherland are hindered by perceptions of it being a complicated process.
“I feel like every person of the diaspora should experience that at least once,” the College Hill resident explains. “And I want to break down any physical or mental barriers that may prohibit someone from taking that step and actually going.”
Whether facilitating the process of obtaining travel visas (she recommends a multiple visa because she says most people end up wanting to visit more than once), advising when—and how—to receive COVID-19 PCR tests prior to leaving the U.S. and before leaving Accra, or arranging themed cultural tours, Byrd and her team provide hands-on consultation services throughout the entire stay.
“I wanted to create a company that does all of the groundwork and makes it easier for people to complete that journey,” explains Byrd, who also owns Over-the-Rhine cultural boutique Sweet Sistah Splash.
Her wanderlust was sparked as a child when her family took annual vacations from Cincinnati to beaches in Florida, and excursions down south “to the country.”
“[Traveling] became ingrained in me as something that I deserved to experience,” she recalls. “My father lived in DC, and I would spend a month or two out of the summer in DC, which taught me about differences [in places I visited], and that was intriguing to me, seeing how people lived differently.”
Eventually, Byrd unofficially became the designated trip advisor among friends and family. While visiting her cousin in St. Thomas, on a lark, she pitched her an idea to host tours from the U.S., and as they lounged on a sandy beach, she remembers one of them said, “we should call it Beach Birds Travel.”
Six years ago, it was a blog and a vision. Last year, Byrd acquired an expansive, eight-bedroom compound house in Accra and remodeled it into a bed and breakfast in time for Beach Birds’ first tour this March.
Located in a developing neighborhood close to the Labadi Beach and about a 10-minute drive from the lavish suburb of Cantonments, where the average price of single-family homes range between $800,000 to $2.5 million USD, Byrd sees the long-term value in her investment. Not only is the Beach Birds’s guest house near foreign embassies and bustling development, but it’s also minutes from downtown Accra and its booming, big-city nightlife.
Beach Birds’s resort-like all-inclusive packages include amenities, such as airport transportation in Accra, the choice of single, double or triple studio accommodations with a private bath and air conditioning, excursions to the Cape Coast Slave Castle, meals prepared by a private Ghanaian chef, tickets to popular attractions such as Afrochella Festival or Accra Fashion Week, and transportation for all itinerary activities. During downtime, guests can enjoy the open bar, shop in the African marketplace or venture to one of the many clubs in the city.
In retrospect, Byrd says furnishing the guest house from another continent while operating another business back home was overwhelming at first.
“The lesson has been to build my team, and those are behind-the-scenes things that people don’t see,” she explains. “I have two full-time partners with Beach Birds Travel, a property manager and a staff in Ghana as well. Beach Birds Travel is not just me and that’s what makes it doable. Everything has fit into place, and I’m really grateful for that.”