A specialist cruise agency has branched out into the accessible travel sector and vowed to put the fun back into travelling for people with disabilities.
Jon Fletcher, who has run a Cruise Holidays UK franchise for a decade, has launched an offshoot agency called The Wheelie Good Travel Company. It will cater for people with disabilities who want to realise their travel dreams.
Jon, a wheelchair user himself, told Travel Gossip that the idea has been 10 years in the making.
He explained how the seed was first planted following an encounter with a travel agent shortly before he opened his cruise business, Silver Service Cruises.
“I remember going into this travel agency and the first thing they asked me was ‘who is going to be your carer’? At that stage they hadn’t even asked what my travel dreams were or even where I wanted to go. It was very blunt. From that moment on I thought something needs to change.”
Conversations since then with hundreds of people with disabilities unearthed many tales of being treated ‘differently’, very often through no fault of the agent.
“Quite often barriers to travelling are put up straight away,” Jon said. “At The Wheelie Good Travel Company, the first question I will ask is the question I ask anybody else: what is your travel dream? That is the most important thing.
“Then I’d ask, what do we need to put in place to make that dream come true? So it’s not me saying, you need to do this or that, it’s very much working with the travellers about what they need
He added: “We recognise that disabled travellers want to be seen as travellers who just happen to be disabled. So our approach is to establish what their travel dream is, then work together to make their dream a reality.”
A common complaint from disabled travellers is how they feel the joy is being been sucked from the planning and booking experience by ‘clinical’ attitudes, Job commented.
“In a lot of cases it’s almost become too serious. Companies become hung up on making it so perfect that it starts to become too clinical. One of the things we are very keen to do is make it fun and present positive images. We want to bring back the fun and excitement to accessible travel.”
Jon said new Facebook groups he has set up are deigned to inject fun and enjoyment into the experience and to develop a community of like-minded travellers.
In addition, its newly-built website features offers designed to inspire.
Jon said he will put packages together in collaboration with tour operators, including those specialising in accessible travel, or stitch together bespoke packages himself.
After travelling for the past 10 years in a wheelchair, Jon said he is well equipped to know the pitfalls and requirements in a way other agents may not.
All bookings will continue to be made through Jon’s Cruise Holidays franchise which is ATOL protected via its affiliation with Midcounties Co-op.
“The Wheelie Good Travel Company is more than just another travel agency, we are seeking to create a community of accessible travellers and our hope is that our community will influence our product development and brand,” Jon added. “We are looking at creating holidays both in the UK and overseas that will reflect the wide range of interests of our communities.”