Colombia stands out as a nation with a substantial African diaspora presence, a characteristic that drew the attention of Jarvis Houston. This Black expat, a native of Chicago, is the co-founder of BlackTravelCo, a Black-owned travel agency, committed to promoting Black culture, community engagement, and economic empowerment in Colombia.

With a background in politics and political work, Houston has a strong passion for promoting Black empowerment. This led him to connect Black travelers and expats with the rich heritage of the African Diaspora in Colombia. In an interview with Travel Noire, he highlights the unique experiences offered by BlackTravelCo. He emphasized education, community involvement, and personalized services that go beyond the typical tourist experience.

Travel Noire: What inspired you to start a Black-owned travel agency in Colombia?

Jarvis Houston: Growing up on the West Side of Chicago was a great learning experience. I learned about the African Diaspora and the importance of Black history in our lives. My best teachers were historians on my block who gave me knowledge about who we are as Black people. After going to Palenque, I was inspired to start BlackTravelCo, connecting Black people to the African Diaspora in Colombia. I started the company with my Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brother Alix Jean.

TN: How does your agency provide a genuine representation of Afro-Colombian culture for both locals and visitors?

JH: BlackTravelCo is a Black-owned travel agency committed to encouraging Black people to travel and live in Colombia. We provide a space for Black travelers and Black expats to stay informed, inspired, and experience Afro-Colombian and Indigenous cultures. We have offices in Cartagena, Medellin, Bogota, Cali, and San Andres Island.

TN: Can you tell us about any community engagement or collaborative efforts your agency has initiated?

JH: We focus on showing groups the local and authentic side of Colombia, including our Black History and Art tour in Cartagena. We are not only a Black-owned travel company; we also have a real estate department where we help Black Americans purchase investment properties in Colombia. In addition, we have a dental services department connecting Black Americans with low-cost, high-quality dental offices throughout Colombia.

TN: How does your company incorporate educational elements into its tours to promote Black cultural awareness in Colombia?

JH: Our education starts first with teaching groups the Black history of Colombia before their vacations start. In Cartagena, our most popular cultural tours are the Black History and Art tour, a walking tour in the Getsemani neighborhood, and the Palenque tour.

The Palenque Tour is an authentic journey through time. Afro-Colombians have preserved music, language, and customs during the last five centuries. Walking down the streets of Palenque is an authentic promenade into history. Palenque is America’s First Free African Town. Its inhabitants are descended from a line of Africans forced into slavery who would go on to make the village the first free African town in 1603.

One of our Cartagena Ambassadors, Andrea, created The Black History and Art tour. She is an Afro-Colombian who gave us the Black history of Getsemani, including the pilgrimage of enslaved Africans. The walking tour includes learning about the Black history of Cartagena and visiting the various Afro-Colombian-inspired murals throughout Getsemani.

TN: How do you tailor your travel services to cater to the specific interests of both Afro-Colombian and Black American travelers?

JH: We have ambassadors assigned to each city in Colombia. Our ambassadors are Afro-Colombians who speak English and Spanish. Because of the language barrier, it is very important to have bilingual Colombians who will give our groups the best authentic experience. All of our tours and experiences are curated and organized by our local ambassadors who understand their communities.

TN: What are the future goals of Jarvis Scout Travel Agency?

JH: Our main priority is to continue to grow BlackTravelCo in Colombia with new cultural experiences in off-the-beaten-path places in Colombia, such as the beautiful desert area of La Guajira or the immaculate views in the mountain city of Minca. There is so much more to Colombia than Cartagena and Medellin. We want to see Colombia the country.