Over the last couple of years our perception about travelling has changed. From full travel bans to limited travel to a new normal, we are adjusting to the new reality forced by the COVID pandemic. Before that, traveling was relatively easy and straightforward. We used to book a ticket, hop on a plane or a train and explore the wonderful destinations that we were eager to explore. But for some people, like Neha Arora, that was never the case.
Accessible Travel Like Never Before
Her father is blind and her mother is a wheelchair user, which meant traveling was near impossible.
- Were the places they wanted to go be accessible?
- How would they take care of basic needs that their disabilities required?
- Would they get support and understanding when travelling?
Those are just a few questions she started asking when COVID-19 hit and has shown us the importance of finding out answers to questions las
- What are the regulations in my desired destination or am I going to be stranded?
Imagine having to not only navigate those fears and questions, but also know if locations are wheelchair accessible or what social stigmas exist around different disabilities. That is why Neha started Planet Abled almost six years ago. Her goal and her company’s mission is to make travel inclusive for all people.
Neha left her corporate career to fulfill her goal of accessible travel. The journey involved a lot of ups and downs, as the first three years were spent finding out the best business model and target audience. There were no references to look at as what they were working on was truly unique and a first of its kind, especially the fact that Planet Abled offers trips that mix people with various disabilities and non disabled persons together. They to this day are still the only company offering that unique service. They were a growing and successful company up until COVID-19 hit, a blow to the entire travel industry. But having faced adversity in their early days, they felt prepared to overcome anything. It also gave them a chance to step back and assess what to try next. This led to them wanting to increase their impact and bring themselves from “being the travel service provider to becoming an ecosystem enabler as well,” as Neha puts it.
Now, Planet Abled helps organisations, tourism boards, hotels, and more to become more inclusive. They are bridging the gap between the actual needs of disabled persons and the perceived notion that ramps and disabled friendly toilets are enough. They are both educating an entire industry, while also giving them tools to develop. They now have a larger goal and more energy to tackle the challenges that await.
Planet Abled started in India, which was a great testing ground for the company as it is a not very accessible country. After mainly operating in Southeast Asia, they are expanding to Europe through the Digital Soft Landing Program. While exploring possibilities of a European expansion back in 2019, Neha met Diana Eggleston of The Hague Business Agency (THBA) at ImpactFest who she says “has been amazing to say the least.” Being at ImpactCity and interacting with THBA helped her see that The Hague was the future for her company. She mentioned the kindness of people in the city and the willingness to connect her to others who may be helpful.
She was on her way to setting up a Dutch company when the world locked down due to COVID, something she was eventually thankful for as it allowed her to slow down and take part in the Digital Soft Landing Program. This gave Planet Abled a secure foundation rather than just a corporate entity, leaving them more prepared than they had ever hoped to be. The programme helped them adapt to cultural and process differences, allowing them to make the right decisions along the way.
- And are you interested in what Planet Abled and their inclusive travel? You can visit their website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.