If you get to know that you are going on vacation, your eyes sparkle and ears perk up. The adventure, the experience of a new place, the delicious food, a break from your daily humdrum — holidays are always an interesting proposition. You can simply search for the places online and take off. But it is not so easy for people with disabilities.
To create an inclusive environment and make holidays accessible to the visually-impaired, Delhi-based Rising Star Tours & Travels has started an initiative called Rising Star Khilte Chehre (RSKC). So far, they have organised trips to places like Jim Corbett National Park, Mussoorie, Jaipur, Goa in India and abroad like Thailand and Dubai.
Rising Star Tours & Travels is the brainchild of Amit Jain, who bagged Golden Star Award — leading travel agent 2018 and Best Outbound Tour Operator Award 2016. The main aim for organising special tours and trips for such special souls is to welcome them to mainstream tourism along with helping them to discover a whole new world. These trips revolve around the philosophy: ‘Living life and being happy even if the circumstances are rough and tough’. RSKC’s vision is that travel becomes a holistic experience only when we engage all our senses. They continue to organise such trips every three months in order to help these special people explore the world.
Jain, founder and managing director of Rising Star Tours and Travels, tells us more about the unique initiative.
What made the company come up with the Rising Star Khilte Chehre initiative? How long have you been organising the trips?
Being in the travel industry for more than two decades, I am an ardent traveller and always try to learn something new from every place I go and every culture I experience. On one such trip to Pangot, I was a sponsor, and I went as a volunteer with my daughter. I realised then that travelling is the most unfulfilled desire of the disabled community and the way they experience the world is beyond rationalities. From that very moment, I decided to be an aid where the disabled also get to travel without any fears or concerns.
Who are these trips meant for — solos, couples or all? What age groups of people make up your clients?
These trips have no age-related restrictions, and people of all age groups can participate. In our previous trips, we had small kids with us, aged five years, to young-at-heart people aged 70 years as well.
As a travel operator, what do you have to keep in mind when organising a trip for the visually impaired? What kind of planning goes into it?
When going with the disabled, the major concern is safety. The places they are supposed to visit must be friendly enough to ensure their smooth commute. In order to ensure that, we make sure that we meet our hosts in advance to convey our concerns or in most cases, to ensure their safety.
What kind of assistance do you provide to the special travellers, right from leaving their home to completing the tour?
We have a group of volunteers that accompany the travellers. Right from the moment they leave their home, they are assisted in reaching the assembly point and from there on, for food to accommodation to excursions, volunteers escort them. The volunteers are instructed to not make them feel like disabled, and rather let them do their tasks on their own but since the surroundings are new, supervision always helps.
You have organised trips to Jim Corbett, Mussoorie, Jaipur and so on (domestically) and Thailand and Dubai (internationally). How do you choose the places? What other destinations are you planning to include?
The location should serve as a good experiential learning opportunity for travellers. It should be close to nature with ample opportunities to feel, experience, and relish the travelling experience. Some destinations that we plan to cover are Goa and Vaishno Devi.
Jim Corbett is all about wildlife, animal sightings, etc. What kind of experiences/ activities do you offer to the visually impaired?
The purpose is their social inclusion, and they should feel like they are not lagging behind in anything. So, if we visit any place which is all about sight-seeing, we let them experience it in their own way, where they feel the winds passing by their ears, hear the birds chirp, relish the sounds of the water hitting the rocks, all the small pleasures of life skipped by most of us. We also arrange swimming for the travellers in Jim Corbett. Imagine the joy of people who have never been in the pool their whole life!
How many travellers make one group? Why do you plan trips every three months?
We generally take with us a group of 50-70 people, but we are planning to increase our family to 100-150 people in the coming trips. It is mostly about the destination and people’s interest in that particular destination.
What is the approximate price package?
There is an initial registration amount which is around Rs 2,000. But, these trips generally cost around Rs 10,000-15,000 per person.