The momentum to create user-friendly holidays for people with disabilities is gathering force all across the globe bringing unimaginable joy and loads of beautiful memories to these special travellers.
It was 20 years ago that Aura Voyages stepped into the travel arena to delight travellers with their range of tours. Set up by a clutch of professional who aimed to back up these experiences by a cavalcade of fine-tuned services Aura Voyages has never looked back since, as it moves quietly from strength to strength. Alert to market changes, innovative in their approach and deeply invested in research to create their programmes, the team has consistently come up with exciting offerings.
A key component of their portfolio now is Abled Traveller, which offers a range of tours customised exclusively to serve differently abled travellers. Director Ravinder Atri, inspired by some of his personal experiences in this area, roots for providing some of the most exciting holiday programmes for people with disabilities.
Speaking of how this new journey began shares how one of his French friends was operating tours for differently abled travellers out of France. “He loves India and proposed to me if I would be interested in handling them in India... I instantly found a connection with this type of tour. Since then we had the pleasure of handling many travellers as solo, families and small groups,” says Ravinder.
The reason the proposal resonated with him, apart from the economic opportunity, was the personal angle to it. “My daughter is a special child. Since her childhood there have been a lot of activities to which she did not have easy access. Now she is 14 years of old and wanted to ride a bicycle but in India we do not have big support wheels... unless we import it. On her birthday, we wanted to give her a present of an accessible bicycle. Sometime ago, my wife and I made her bicycle accessible by adding 2 small wheels as support wheels to the bigger bicycle. Now she can comfortably ride a bigger bicycle. The great thing is that also brings in lots of positives to her!” he says. Ravinder talks about how she loves to ride her bike, but it becomes difficult for her to climb uphill. They plan to make an accessible single tyre cycle which, with the help of puller and pusher, so that it can be taken anywhere... even to the hills while they hike.
Ravinder is also a certified teacher of yoga and through this he gave yoga lessons to visually impaired girls. “Before giving them yoga lessons, I took them to a stable to experience horse riding. Besides enjoying the riding, they were thrilled to touch and feel the horse with their hands. This helped me to think about tours for visually impaired travellers. Recently we had our 1st visually impaired traveller who contacted us for his first organised travel within India. And he returned really satisfied with what the services we provided,” he says.
Ravinder opines that with small modifications, you can make things quite accessible for the differently abled. He is very keen to present all major tourist destinations to these travellers. Rajasthan is his first choice for the first time travellers to India, so this became a focus area for Abled Traveller. Various deciding factors for the destination of choice are considered for doing this, such as, most important of all, ensuring that the hotel is accessible. Apart from that, the destination needs to have highlights like UNESCO World Heritage Site (s), forts and palaces; it should also have elements to bring the travellers in close contact with the local community.
The endeavour at Abled Traveller is to make the tours complete in all respects. The guides are the key to its success. They are licensed guides, well-educated and have years of experience. They handle each client with dignity and take a lot of pride in showcasing Indian culture. “In our tours, we don’t just visit monuments and stay in hotels, we bring our travellers closer to the local community by visiting local families for meals and interactions, exploring varied Indian cuisine, stopping at religious places to experience India’s spirituality India, visiting local markets and making new friends with friendly animals,” Ravinder shares.
He speaks of how satisfied their clients are with the experiences they have had through the company. This takes into account their choice of hotels, restaurants to explore Indian cuisine, guides and even the drivers.
He points out that: “Even though India may not be fully accessible, here one can easily get a helping hand that makes many things accessible and that changes the total experience.”
He is of the firm belief that with the right attitude and willingness of each one involved to take an extra step to make things accessible brings a broad smile on the face of a differently abled traveller.