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Women in Business Spotlight: Higuaca Adventours

Higuaca Adventours has some of the best, well-curated tours in Puerto Rico.

Women in business often have to overcome barriers that are not present for their male counterparts. They have more social expectations placed upon them such as caring for family, bearing children and being the primary caretaker for their home. Often women who desire to create financial opportunities for themselves experience a lack of support by other family members, from the community and their competitors. The ability to balance both work and home life is the hallmark of every successful woman.

Women earn, on average, 81.6 cents to the dollar of their male counterparts. When we support women in business we help close that wage gap. We also help support underprivileged communities as women are 38 times more likely to live in poverty than men. Additionally, women entrepreneurs receive only 4% of small business funding. All the more reason to support the tenacious women that are succeeding in spite of the obstacles that stand in their way.

Higuaca Adventours, based out of Caguas, was founded by Ashley Somoza in 2018 along with her partner Victor Semprit, from Puerto Rico. Ashley came to PR as part of FEMA to help with emergency management as a regional healthcare planner after Hurricane Maria. She fell in love with the island and wanted to do something different when her contract was up. 

Ashley developed a love of travel and learning about other cultures from her mother who worked in the airline industry. When her cousin came to visit she decided to plan a day trip to Gilligan’s Island and found that no one was offering it as a tour. Most tours focus on the heavily impacted areas of San Juan, and the islands of Icacos, Culebra and Vieques. There were no tours available that offered the opportunity to learn about the traditional culture of Puerto Rico.

Her cousin enjoyed the trip immensely so Ashley decided on a whim to post the Gilligan’s Island tour on Instagram. When she got a booking the following day she thought she might be onto something special. Higuaca Adventours was born. The tour company offers an organic experience for their customers. They provide information, local knowledge, history and cultural immersion. The tours include van service, a meal, knowledgeable guides and everything needed for the day. Different tours are available such as culinary experiences, cultural experiences, island adventures and even an opportunity to have an experience crafted for your special occasion.  

She takes pride in offering an experience no other tour company does on the island, which has since become part of their business strategy. Higuaca takes pride in exposing tourists to areas of the island that are underserved and off the beaten track such as Yauco, Guanica and Jayuya. This allows smaller communities to gain tourism dollars that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Getting to play a small part in improving the local economy and exposure is something Higuaca Adventours is proud of. 

There are significant challenges being a female business owner on the island. Ashley has faced lack of support and respect due to her age, being female, not originally from Puerto Rico and being in a field that is male dominated. Oftentimes, when she is in a room, men will turn to other men to carry conversation and interact. Although Ashley speaks fluent Spanish, she usually has a Puerto Rican man with her for important meetings in order to be taken seriously. Coming from a corporate background she is used to men underestimating her so she tries not to let it get to her. 

Having a passion for travel and her business keeps Ashley going even when facing challenges. She believes that knowing the history of the place helps others to have a greater appreciation for the region. Constantly looking for ways to improve the business and the experience for her customers keeps her going. She takes all reviews seriously and uses them to improve the tours. The company is always trying new avenues that make sense for them; they are expanding into offering summer camps and even becoming involved in study abroad programs. They offer a more in depth opportunity to interact with the Taíno culture and learn about the uniqueness of the island.

Looking back now, she wishes she had known how the industry worked before jumping into this business. A lot of mistakes were made that could have been avoided. The competition in the tourism industry is fierce and it can get ugly. She has worked around that by leading tours in places where her competitors don’t go.

Ashley advises that if you start a business in Puerto Rico to make sure that you stand out by doing something that is uniquely you. Carve out your niche. Test your offers to make sure they work and keep only the ones that do. She has tested out 20-30 different tours and has kept only 5. Interestingly, they still offer the Gilligan’s Island tour. 

To book a tour check out their website.

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