If you're familiar with products I used to make and sell at art shows and mall kiosks in years past, you'll recall that I worked extensively with African textiles. I LOVE mud cloth, indigo, kente cloth, wax cloth, kuba cloth and other fabrics that are representative of the Motherland. I also created mixed media artworks using cowrie shells, African trade beads and a variety of African trinkets. I couldn't get enough, so when I had the opportunities (2x) to visit the African continent, I jumped at the chance. My visits there definitely inspired me to create The Africa Collection.
I had the pleasure of taking these trips, and others, with ZTEC (Z's Travel and Entertainment Company, LLC), owned by Zandra Jenkins. Zandra has hosted numerous trips through ZTEC, all well organized and fun, so I was excited to interview her for my series, Small Business Spotlight:
How long ago did you establish ZTEC, and what inspired you to do so?
Z’s Travel and Entertainment Company, L.L.C., dba ZTEC, was established in 2003, evolving from an occasional hobby that began in the late-’90s to satisfy my desire to see more live performances. I would purchase 20 tickets to local plays at the group discount rate and then phone friends and family to purchase them at a very low mark-up. As a youth, my family did not have the wherewithal to attend professional plays, but we had show-tune albums that I sang along with as they were played repeatedly. Listening to them, as well as hymns/spirituals and R&B, was my inspiration to one day attend endless live entertainment events of various genres. It only took one person to ask when I was going to take them to New York (Broadway) that ‘travel’ was launched, by offering either Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk, or Smokey Joe’s Café on my inaugural trip. Multiple trips to see The Lion King, Aida, and The Color Purple soon followed and became my anchor for a few years until multi-day domestic and Canada trips were added. A request from a professional federal government organization for a trip to South Africa resulted in a 2008 trip with 77 travelers from 10 states and Washington, D.C. It was the impetus for international travel that to date has taken travelers to many countries and every continent except for Antarctica.
What countries have been your favorite to visit, and why?
South Africa tops the list hands down which explains why I have escorted five different groups there. Although the vestiges of Apartheid still loom, they do not prevent one from having a culturally enriching and fun-filled visit. What’s not to love about the warmth of the people; beautiful accommodations; the diverse landscapes; the multitude of awesome venues and entertainment; delicious food; great wine, and oh, so, many exotic animals seen on the safaris
and elsewhere?!! This was true whether in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, and all the villages in between.
New Zealand is a favorite simply because it is so incredibly beautiful. As we rode along from Christchurch to Queenstown, the awe-inspiring beauty was on full display, especially upon reaching the Remarkables (mountains) region. The majestic scenery had me humming the Ohio Players song title, “Heaven Must Be Like This”.
Bustling and colorful Senegal and The Gambia offered a whole other experience. The poignant tour of Maison des Enclaves (house of slaves) and its “Door of No Return” on Goree Island in Dakar, and Kunta Kinteh Island, a historical site in the West African slave trade in the Gambia, literally made me feel as if I was making emotional connections with my ancestral roots.
What states and attractions are among your favorites in the U.S.?
African American heritage and the African diaspora is a key focus on many of my trips. The 2018 trip through the deep south (Atlanta, GA; Tuskegee, Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery, AL; Memphis, TN, and Little Rock, AR) stands out as a favorite because of the many attractions visited while retracing the steps of the Civil Rights Movement. These cities were the bedrock of the Movement and to have been able to relive some of the most influential times and places in U.S. history was memorable.
As a veteran in organizing trips all over the world, how do you think the pandemic has most affected travel going forward?
The disruptive effects of the pandemic have been very profound for the travel industry; for ZTEC, no trips for two years. As I type this, the recent emergence of the Omicron variant offers a glimpse into the challenges going forward, as we will be living with new variants of Covid-19 for some time. However, I am predicting better times in 2022 albeit with concerns over travelers’ lingering pandemic-related apprehension.
Do you have any trips or events planned for 2022?
Yes, I do! Every trip currently planned is one that was canceled in 2020, except for Costa Rica.
How can those who are interested in learning about upcoming trips, etc., connect with you?
My website - www.TravelWithZTEC.com - lists upcoming trips. I can be reached either by email at TravelWithZTEC@gmail.com or by phone, 301-908-1909.
Be sure to check out Zandra's website to see what she has to offer, and sign up for her trips!
I created the Small Business Spotlight series to highlight some of the inspiring small business owners and amazing artists I've met along my journey. I will be sharing these interviews periodically through my newsletter, and you can also check them out on the Blog page of my website at skcreations.com.
Thank you for supporting Small Businesses!
I Love traveling with Zandra, my extended family member☺️
The cross country by train several years ago was definitely a favorite.
Highly recommended for her professionalism and personable interaction with customer guests. Thanks for highlighting ZTEC!
And congrats to SK Creations for this new endeavor! I’ve always appreciated your work.👐🏾
This is an excellent article. Zandra is the best. I would not have seen as many places in the world if it had not been for Zandra. I feel extremely comfortable and at ease in a foreign country with Zandra. Everything is arranged from your airplane ticket, your seat, your transportation to and from the airport, your hotel, your meals, your sightseeing tours, agenda, free time and any questions you need answered, Zandra is there for you. Not only have I been on fantastic trips but I have seen plays in New York City that I would not have seen on my own. I feel like a Queen traveling and being with Zandra. I feel confident and at ease. She is an excellent travel agent. I have told all of my friends about her and they have come with me on some of my trips. It is always easy to pay for these trips. Zandra keeps excellent records and makes affordable every excursion.
I went one time on a trip with a friend who did not use Zandra. It was awful and unorganized.
Zandra is very organized and makes sure everyone is comfortable. One traveler on one of my trips got sick. Zandra stayed with the person and kept us informed of his condition so we would not worry. She kept in touch with the traveler even after we returned to the States.
Wonderful experience to know Zandra.
I was introduced to ZTEC through a mutual friend, we all went on a bus trip to Broadway. I was so impressed with the way the trip was organized I immediately went to her website to find out more about her. Needless to say I have travelled with ZTEC for years every since and every trip I have gone on has given me some of the best memories. My husband and I have travelled short distance, long distance, and have even gone abroad to France, a trip I will never forget because it was simply awesome. ZTEC is the most professional travel agent I have ever travelled with, from the buses to the planes, the hotels, the tour guides, the seats at theatres, the meals planned and the entertainment and prizes. I can’t wait until the travel is restored for our Nation so I can travel and see some of the friends that were made while travelling on a trip with ZTEC. She is the best hands down. Happy New Year to your all and strive to see the world.
I had given up on bus trips because of uncomfortable tight seating. A friend told me about Ztec who she had traveled with & gave me the phone #. Zandra called when she returned from a trip & assured me she had never had that complaint. I decided to take a chance first on a day trip to Broadway and have been traveling in & out of the United States with Ztec ever since.
Beautiful article Sharon. I have such sweet memories of my travels with ZTEC. Zandra may be a small business but she has so much that large and small businesses can learn from her. Peace and joy for the New Year.