Exploring JA with Rashell Myrie – Jamaica Observer

From Maroon Town in Portland to Rick’s Cafe in Negril, Westmoreland, Rashell Myrie is facilitating Jamaicans on several journeys to discover the beauty of the island through her Instagram handle ExploringJA.
Since founding the company in January 2021, Myrie has converted her followers to paying customers who embark on excursions to various attractions and watering holes across the island. Two years on, she has also created a registered business from the social media page.
“We provide public and private local excursions. Private, in terms of if you have your own group, I’d say work retreats, church groups, family trips, or just a group of friends,” she told Jamaica Observer.
For regular trips, the company has limited the participation of children under 12, depending on the location. However, the target market for the company is all-encompassing.
“Honestly, because everybody has an inner explorer, once they’re willing to take that leap of faith and travel with us, we do not turn away anyone,” Myrie pointed out.
While on these trips, patrons are served sandwiches, water, and other beverages as part of the package. Travellers can also request an assigned photographer to take a snap and share the images via e-mail or Whatsapp.
Myrie, an alumna of The University of the West Indies who majored in marketing, said while she doesn’t believe she’s maximising the full potential of her studies, she is invested in making others happy through her affordable excursions as “it’s not just a money thing, it’s a passion project for me”.
Ever since a tender age, Myrie remembers frequently going on excursions with her family to various attractions and secluded watering holes. She added that friends would usually express their envy of her and their willingness to pay for such trips.
So in January 2021, with limited options for entertainment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and government-sanctioned containment measures during specific times, Myrie embarked on her first outing. Following its success, she received positive feedback from customers who demanded another trip. Thereafter, Exploring JA began offering monthly trips.
When Sunday Finance asked about current demand, she responded, “Extremely crazy! Demand has increased by say 300 per cent, if that’s an actual figure. When we originally started we only were doing trips monthly and then we had to go bi-monthly and then we went to weekly trips.”
“I only wanted to do Saturday trips, but persons started inquiring about Sunday trips, even though that was not part of the line-up. Sometimes we even have two different trips going out on one day,” the Exploring JA founder said, adding that she recently commissioned two trips — one to St Elizabeth and the other to Portland.
In other cases, Myrie has had to use two Coaster buses for one outing due to higher-than-expected demand.
“We also have some trips where we have to take two busloads of persons to that one location. For instance, we would be going to Margaritaville and Rick’s Cafe, which are crowd favourites, so we have two buses. So certain locations warrant two buses if the seats are fully booked quickly and persons are complaining,” she explained.
A check on the Exploring JA’s Instagram page will show that excursions offered by the company are booked even before the month begins or in the first week of any month.
While the company has used its Instagram page and TikTok account for marketing, Myrie said it is in the process of developing a digital application and website to help customers book their trips. Both the app and website should go live later in the year.
Within the last year the company has begun marketing overseas trips as well.
“We also include international travels for places that you wouldn’t necessarily need a visa for. So like Panama, DR (Dominican Republic), Aruba, and stuff like that,” Myrie shared.
“A lot of persons, shockingly, did not know that you do not need a visa to travel [to these countries]. So ever since we started putting that out as the main angle and telling them it makes more sense to spend like the $120,000 for four nights or five nights in any island rather than go and spend that for two nights at a hotel in Ochi [Ocho Rios],” she added.
Moreover, she said patrons like to take advantage of having a “travel history before applying for any of the ABC visas, as in America, Britain, and Canada”. Take-up for foreign travel has grown from eight individuals per trip in 2022 to 12 patrons in the current year.
Asked about the company’s competitive advantage, Myrie informed Sunday Finance that the company’s packages are budget-fiendly and geared toward locals.
Additionally, she noted, “From what I’ve gotten from my repeat patrons, it’s our professionalism and the fact that we stick to our time is what really sets us apart. So just how we treat people, how we group our projects and the price really sets us apart.”
Moreover, Myrie explained that being on time has improved the company’s favourability as well as catering to patrons outside of the Kingston Metroploitan Area, which includes Portmore and Spanish. Customers come as far as from Clarendon, she added.
Though Exploring JA’s budget-friendly trips have pulled demand, the CEO said that in the initial stages of commissioning trips, people thought the offers were just scams, especially when compared with what traditional travel agents were offering.
Revenue and profitability for Exploring JA has grown over 100 per cent in its two years of existence on account of growing demand, and Myrie anticipates this trend will continue in the current year.
Still, she notes that the positive feedback from patrons is the greatest reward. In fact, Myrie disclosed that her most rewarding experience has been facilitating a patron, who grew up in an inner-city community and did not get an opportunity to embark on excursions, on his first trip to a waterfall.
“I’ve always had a love for travelling. I consider myself a citizen of the world. I love seeing new things, I love when persons are happy … Because our main thing is why stay home when you can explore, and it’s just so much easier when you can just show up and have fun. You don’t have to think about the hassle,” Myrie outlined.
Admitting that starting a business requires a lot of boldness, she also concedes that the help from family, friends, and her life partner has been “amazing”.
“We are now branching out and expanding into different things, so a lot is in store for Exploring JA … so, in the meanwhile, book a trip, relax, and just have fun,” Myrie concluded.
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