Real estate investing has long been a proven approach to helping individuals diversify their assets, build generational wealth and achieve financial independence— and that’s especially the case when it comes to two HBCU grads: Carrington Carter and Calvin Butts, Jr.
The pair, who are the founders of the premium vacation rental company, Getaway Society, are not only taking over the $113 billion global vacation rental market, but also providing a pathway for Black entrepreneurs and investors to follow in their footsteps.
And their partnership started off rather serendipitously. What began with Carter vacationing in the Poconos, later led to the college friends joining forces to turn their love for traveling into a profitable business where they currently own and manage properties in the Poconos, Martha’s Vineyard, Gatlinburg, and Hilton Head. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, they have seen exponential growth in all of those markets, and there business has only continued to grow.
This comes as no surprise, with Black U.S. leisure travelers spending on average $109.4 billion on travel in 2019 – the most recent year reflecting normal travel spend prior to COVID-19. Needless to say, there’s a huge vacation rental market to be tapped into, and the Hampton University graduates are just beginning to scratch the surface. “We spend a lot of money on travel,” says Carter. “We spend a lot of money on experiences. You’re also starting to see a cultural shift, whether it’s brought on by social media, or whether it’s an age thing, where people are starting to spend a lot of money on experiences versus material things. The vacation rental industry and the travel industry are starting to benefit a lot from that.”
After putting their financial resources and knowledge together, they broke ground on their first Getaway Society property in the Pocono Mountains in 2014 — and it’s been up ever since. “We continue to grow in this space,” says Carter. “One of the things that we like about the vacation rental home market, is the many different types of ways that you can use these houses. Whether it’s a family trip, whether it’s a multigenerational family… fraternity trip, sorority trip, bachelor, bachelorette.”
Butts adds that their growing success also has a lot to do with the current social climate, “This is now the preferred way of travel for a lot of folks. Given the fact that folks are traveling in larger groups, and people looking for more privacy, and are looking to have events and need more space. If you think about where we are in this current pandemic — the need for safety, cleanliness, privacy and less exposure to others is now very important.”
Carter and Butts, Jr. haven’t stopped at vacation rentals either. The pair also co-own McKinley Carter Enterprises, a real estate investment and property management company, as well as East Chop Capital, a private equity firm that helps people create and grow businesses, as well as obtain financial education on how to raise money and find investors. “Calvin and I are really big on creating wealth — generational wealth,” says Carter. “One of the ways that we’ve been able to do that, and that we advise others to do it is through real estate. Real estate is a hard asset. Land is something that traditionally continues to appreciate. The vacation home market, especially the segment that we operate in — the luxury market — has a high cost of entry. That’s where through partnerships, and through working together, Calvin and I have been able to scale with our first couple of houses, and as we launched a real estate fund to invite more people to invest alongside us. We recommend working together to do more than you could do as individuals.”
The world is now more accessible than ever before, making this generation of Black travelers a lot different than we once knew. Butts Jr. credits this partly due to people who are “influencers” who share their experiences while traveling. “What used to be something you would see in a high end production rap video, or certain location that you’ve only read about or seen on the news — now you’re watching folks on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and they’re traveling to these places and posting pictures,” he says. “It’s inspiring folks to want to do the same thing and to capture the same moment in their own way, or with their own friends. That is probably the biggest reason why you’re seeing more of “us” traveling or tackling our bucket list of places.”
Butts Jr. also recognizes that affordability plays a big factor on the increase of Black travelers. “People are recognizing and rediscovering America,” he says. “Folks have an interest now in places that have a lot of good history or places of congregation of folks that they choose to want to network with. When you think about the Vineyard and those August moments where you could be with the Obamas or other celebrities. You’re having dinner at the same restaurant with folks over your shoulder that you’ve seen on television or looked up to in many regards.”
While Getaway Society has primarily been known for their properties in Martha’s Vineyard, the Poconos and Hilton Head, South Carolina, the brand’s portfolio continues to grow with new destinations in Tennessee and Florida. “We expanded to Gatlinburg, Tennessee last month and also Orlando,” shares Carter. “The reception to Gatlinburg has been phenomenal. It’s located in the Great Smoky Mountain area, which is the number one visited national park in the country. And it’s a one day drive within 77% of the U.S. population. Orlando, we’re also excited about. It’s obviously home to Disney and Universal, and as COVID starts to improve, and the outlook starts to improve and those parks are back at more capacity, there will be a pent up demand to really get down there to that destination.”
As far as the future for Getaway Society, destinations on the horizon include Destin (Florida), as well as other regions, such as the West Coast, Central America and Africa.