Saskia Skyers Adventures Tours: empowering group travel for all
SOLO travel has often been deemed a luxury reserved for those holding a US visa, but for Onya Tinglin, a non-US visa holder and CEO of Saskia Skyers Adventure, Travel, and Tours, it evolved into a personal mission.
Her solo adventures not only inspired others who wanted to join but also prompted a crucial question: Why not turn this passion into a business that makes solo travel accessible to everyone?
“What I found was that people would want to travel, but sometimes they didn’t have anyone to travel with. So, the idea of my business was to travel as a group,” Tinglin explained to the Jamaica Observer.
Embarking on this venture as a one-woman show, Tinglin launched the business in 2020, just before the onset of the pandemic. Plans for a launch trip to Cuba were already in place, but the pandemic forced its shelving, resulting in disappointing refunds for clients. Undeterred, Saskia Skyers Adventures pivoted to local adventures, retaining the essence of group trips.
“I started doing trips on the weekend, and we’d go to various places in Jamaica. We went to almost every river and beach, and we were full; we had a big group of people,” Tinglin proudly states.
When islandwide lockdowns presented another challenge, the business adapted to focus on local hikes to mountain peaks. As hotels reopened, she shifted to hotel trips, determined not to abandon her entrepreneurial dream while juggling a 9-to-5 job. However, uncertainties about the business during the pandemic kept Tinglin clinging to her day job until the new year of 2024 when she decided to take the leap and focus solely on her business.
“I wasn’t getting enough time to do my business and also travel. Whenever there was a holiday or vacation day, I would just travel, and when I got back to work, I was just tired because I didn’t get any breaks,” she explained to the Sunday Finance.
Pre-visiting locations before selling a destination and creating connections took considerable time and energy, especially for someone who has visited 20 countries herself. Although the business initially centred around group international travel, airport lockdowns and the lack of nightlife activities resulted in a surge in bookings for local day activities. With a maximum limit of 15 people for each trip, Saskia Skyers Adventures was consistently booked.
As airports reopened, Saskia Skyers Adventures returned to its roots â€” international flights. As a traveller with no US visa, Tinglin discovered a whole new world, realising she could travel to Panama, The Bahamas, Barbados, and numerous South American countries without a visa. The business became focused on helping others realise this.
“People want to go, and they just want someone to guide them. International travel is the most profitable for the business, followed by local hotels and then group trips,” she shared.
Last year, Saskia Skyers Adventures raked in an impressive $10 million in revenue from international travel alone. Tinglin emphasises budget travel for affordability, tirelessly searching for the most affordable deals and offering payment plans to her clients. However, the challenge lies in flights for intra-regional travel. As most of her clients lack a visa, flights within the Caribbean often involve several connecting flights and high costs, hindering affordability for budget-friendly trips to other Caribbean islands.
“I think I could offer people more destinations. Right now, I’m limited to the places I can offer a budget to,” Tinglin shares as her biggest challenge.
While Tinglin dreams of expanding options for Caribbean travel, her focus remains on extending her business by adding staff and leveraging technology to automate and digitise operations. Looking ahead, Saskia Skyers Adventures and Tours is eyeing the possibility of an upcoming group trip to Dubai. Although still in the planning phases, the business is determined to make group travel an accessible and enriching experience for everyone.