Karen Hutchinson of Jamaica Cultural Enterprises
Karen Hutchinson of Jamaica Cultural Enterprises

Karen has a passion for travel. She is excited by her own personal travels and by curating the experiences of others. Her educational background is in business and she has a Masters in Business Administration. This training allows her to apply sound business principles to her own enterprise as well as teach young undergraduates the principles of business communication.

In addition to her passion for travel Karen is also very excited about creative expression: art, theatre, literature in particular. The notions of power and resistance which are shown through the creative forms are powerful and Jamaica Cultural Enterprises (JCE) is therefore a neat blending of those twin passions. Karen gave her first for profit tour in October 2010 and has never looked back. The tours consistently receive positive reviews and Karen’s hope is to continue to build on that, to provide even more travel and tour packages that will connect even more persons to Jamaica and the world.

Kingston, Jamaica
On any given day in Jamaica, there is something to do, something to see, somewhere to go. From a street dance with pulsating rhythms to an experimental play. Jamaica Culture Enterprises provides guests with a gateway to that culture through workshops, trips, and our writings.

How do the experiences you offer at Jamaica Cultural Enterprises give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your island?

Jamaica Cultural Enterprises (JCE) is interested primarily in offering and facilitating cultural experiences. Jamaica is well known for the beautiful beaches, warm sunshine, but our island has a history that is complicated and this has shaped who we are as Jamaicans. At JCE our tours are driven by our research and respect for our culture, our people, our history, and our artistic expressions. When I conceive of a tour I craft experiences to honor that as well as give guests an insight into what it is to be Jamaican.

How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?

We started with two products and the catalog has of course grown since then. I’ve had to create products that are less niche to appeal to a wider audience and I’ve had to adjust the niche product as supplier conditions have changed. For example, I launched the business with an art tour called the Kingston Art Trek. Over the past 5 years galleries have closed but street art has thrived so there has been an adjustment of the kind of experience, moving from a more formal place to a more open air, community space. It’s sad that galleries close because of lack of support but it’s a fun experience to be outside, seeing the vibrant colorful expressions on walls.

Preparing Jamaican jerk chicken.
Tours include: Kingston City Explorer, Blue Mtn. Path Finder, Story of Jamaican Music, Roots and Culture of Ocho Rios, and Taste Jamaica (pictured here).

What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?

I can’t think of anything. It’s important for guests to understand though that we try as much as possible to ensure that the inputs, experiences are Jamaican. We try to ensure that Jamaicans and Jamaican communities are the ones who benefit from the spending power of our guests.

What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in one of your tours?

I wish every guest knew that they were going to have an excellent time. Our focus is on content, professionalism, and ensuring your tour is exactly what you desire it to be. You can’t go wrong choosing us.

What is one unexpected piece of clothing or equipment guests should have to maximize their enjoyment of the experiences you offer?

I have no recommendations regarding equipment or attire that’s different from any other tour company’s (and all those recommendations for each tour is clearly listed on our site). What I will say is I wish for every guest to come with an open mind. Jamaica is not one thing. There’s a mix of town and country, rich and poor, coast line and mountain, lush vegetation and dry arid flatlands, classical music and dancehall, and I could go on. Guests who come on our tours benefit greatly from having an open mind. Our guests have experiences that they will remember forever.

Jamaican Beaches
Upon arriving in 1494 Christopher Columbus called Jamaica “the fairest isle that eyes ever beheld”.

What is one travel trend that really excites you?

I really like the fact that today’s client is likely to be interested in not just seeing a country but in understanding that country. In not simply being a tourist but in being a traveler. These are the people I create experiences for.

What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?

Travel is meant to be fun while expanding the mind. It can also be very frenetic, stressful, and even while enjoying the experiences, persons can miss moments; they can be so busy doing that they don’t really feel what they’re experiencing, and it all goes by in a blur. I would say to travelers that they need to ensure they have a way to get grounded in the experience. It could be as simple as ensuring there’s a free day, slowing things down, or maybe they could journal their experiences. With a greater focus on savouring moments and not collecting as many as possible, there should be deeper enjoyment.

What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?

I have tried to focus on distribution through a variety of channels. This has helped to expand my reach.

Exploring vinyl at Rockers International Records in downtown Kingston on a music tour.
Exploring vinyl at Rockers International Records in downtown Kingston on a music tour.

What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?

Guests are impressed by the depth of knowledge we have and one of our value propositions ins superior knowledge of local history and culture. This comes from an attitude of curiousity. We are constantly reading, researching, questioning in order to figure out why.

Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.

It’s a really great feeling when the product is a perfect match to the client. We offer a music tour, the Story of Jamaican Music tour, which delves into the various genres of Jamaican music, particularly ska and reggae. I had a guest who was a huge ska and reggae fan. On the tour we went to one of the old music studios where much of the music from the 60s was made. He was so moved by the experience, of seeing the source of the music he had listened to as youngster in England, that he shed tears. Manly tears of course. We get intense music fans all the time, people who could spend hours in old dusty record shops picking out vinyl, but this gentleman was particularly memorable.


JAC on Facebook:  facebook.com/jaculture
JAC on Twitter:  twitter.com/jaculture

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