Welcome to our newest member – Jakera
Interview with Tim Poullain-Patterson, Co-Founder and Director
Tell us your story. How did Jakera get started?
We started many years ago in Venezuela, delivering gap year experiences to 18-30-year olds from mainly northern European countries. Unfortunately, owing to the deteriorating situation in that country we ceased operations a few years ago and opened in Cuba in 2014, Costa Rica in 2015, Guatemala in 2017, and now Colombia in 2018. Most of these operations are headed/managed by our seasoned ex-Venezuelan crew so adventure is in our DNA! To our pleasant surprise, when we started in Cuba, we discovered that the age profile of our clients stretched considerably… everyone loves Cuba; we host parents with young kids, empty nesters, retirees – all ages (my Mum and two of my kids have each participated in our Cuba programs!).
What makes Jakera different from your competitors?
We are not fixed to one aspect of ‘youth travel’ – we like to combine a package of services to offer a ‘full cultural immersion’. For example, all our programs include accommodation and meals, but also Spanish lessons with activities from cultural stuff (Cuba), surf and yoga (Costa Rica), volunteering (Guatemala) and outdoor adventure (Colombia). We figured what ‘we’ would like to do in these places and then give that experience to our clients, rather than limiting ourselves to what others may be offering. We really love the places we operate in as well as the contribution our clients make energising local communities.
What is your favourite success story from your organisation?
Taking the magic we created in Venezuela to other countries. The timing of our ‘launch’ in Cuba was perfect (you need a little luck in life, right?). Oh, and getting my Mum to take salsa classes at Casa del Son, Habana earlier this year.
What can we expect to see from Jakera in the future?
Bed down our operations in Guatemala – earlier this month we made an exciting new partnership with a wonderful organisation in Antigua. And making Colombia happen – we are currently launching San Gil Adventure at this very moment.
Which trends do you see in educational and active youth travel?
Shorter durations, Instagram, and the ‘we can figure it out for ourselves’ approach is becoming a challenge. However, the reality is that lots of backpackers are moving too fast and not actually having a meaningful experience engaging with the communities and environments they are passing through. Our challenge is to persuade them to ‘slow down’ and do something that has value when you travel!
How do you work to ensure the health and safety of young travellers involved with Jakera?
- Make sure local teams are energised and love what they do. Since our clients typically sign up for 1-3 weeks, it means that relationships are formed, and clients often have an opportunity to ‘put something back’. This makes our local teams proud and happy about the impact their work is having on local communities.
- Have proper communication protocols and training so staff are alert to potential problems and able to deal with stuff (including disciplining clients when necessary) before small things becomes a big issue.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
I was told to by Janine Wegman from Activity International 😉 (thanks Janine!).
What is an industry challenge your organisation is facing at this time?
We’ve been doing this for a long time. There are challenges every day… but if you love what you do and consider it to have a positive impact overall… there’s always something to do and a new challenge to meet!
Adventure travel, cultural immersion, gap year/life affirming travel to exciting Spanish speaking destinations. We have operations in Cuba, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Colombia. Our programs are for over 18’s but families or supervised younger persons – including groups – are most welcome (no upper age limit!). Clients can book packages from 1 to 6 weeks in each country combining half board (different room options available), Spanish lessons and activities appropriate to the location including volunteering (opportunity to engage with local communities and natural environment), dance lessons, surfing, outdoor adventure activities, hiking volcanoes, steaming jungles, mangrove and waterfalls. Our job is to invigorate, excite and connect our clients to the amazing world we live in.
80% of our clients come to us through a network of agent partners – most of whom are WYSTC members.
We also encourage clients to consider combining destinations, for example; Cuba & Colombia or Costa Rica & Guatemala for a 3-6 month Gap year experience which will help set your inner compass for life! We have a very experienced leadership team and local staff – we love what we do, and our clients do too!
For more information, visit their website: http://jakeracuba.com
Membership: WYSE Travel Confederation Associate Member
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