What is there to do on the island? Where should we eat? How can we get there?
These are questions that residents of the Virgin Islands are familiar with, but not visitors who spend time trying to get the best experience during their short stay in the islands.
Answering these questions is now just a phone call away and has become a business for Jinniah Dowdye. Owner of SeaShell Experiences, Dowdye creates tailor-made vacations.
Born and raised in St. Thomas, Dowdye has worked in the hospitality industry since 2015 and “fell in love with helping guests create their own vacations.”
While working as a cashier at Moe’s Fresh Market, customers repeatedly asked Dowdye where they should go and what they should do. She realized there was a need for a company that answered these questions so that guests didn’t have to waste their time on the island, especially those in vacation rentals.
“Most hotels here have concierge service available or have vacation planners on site. A lot of Airbnbs and private villas don’t have this service, so that’s one of my goals, to contact them and get their attention, so before they arrive on the island, their vacation is already planned,” said said Dowdye.
“They will have a personalized itinerary with daily activities to do,” Dowdye said. “A lot of people come on holiday for three days, arrive on Friday and leave on Monday. The time they take sitting at that desk planning a vacation is wasting their vacation, so it’s best to plan everything in advance,” she said.
With SeaShell Experiences, Dowdye can set up day sails, parasailing and other activities for a visitor, couple, group or family, as long as they stay on the island. She will arrange restaurant reservations, airport pickup, car rentals, and beach, shopping, island, and food tours. Groceries can be delivered, ready and waiting for their arrival. If they want rose petals or balloons in the room for a special occasion, she’ll make it happen, she said.
The process is simple.
A vacationer fills out a questionnaire on the SeaShell Experiences website and Dowdye sends them a list of recommendations, then plans accordingly.
“It’s going to be tailored to what they want, not just what I want to promote,” Dowdye said. “Some vacation planners have specific vendors they work with. I try not to go that route because not everyone may want to have the same experience. Some may want to do a sailing day with themselves and their family, and some may want to do a sailing day with other people.
Dowdye said his company’s goal is simple.
“We want them to have a really good time and have fun. That way when they get home they spread the word and more people will come to visit the islands,” she said.
Dowdye took a gamble by opening SeaShell Experiences. Although she had experience in the hospitality industry, she had no experience in owning a business or how to market it. She intended to launch the business last year, but delayed due to COVID-19. It wasn’t easy right away; she said she took SeaShell Experiences to social media early in the summer with little response.
“I had it on Facebook for a while, but I wasn’t getting a lot of traffic,” she said. “It’s a lot to learn. I started without really knowing. I still have a lot to learn about marketing and advertising,” she said, adding that she recently completed a website to drive traffic. “I learn as I go. I do everything from scratch.
As she continues to refine the business, Dowdye said she has lots of ideas in the works and hopes to one day work with larger groups and eventually the tourism department.
“I’ve always been quiet and shy, so this is a big step for me – putting myself forward,” she said. “The fact that I’ve even started is a major step in the right direction for me. As time goes on, I’ll reach out and see what options there may be.
For more information, visit www.seashellexperiences.com.