Specialcare Holidays, India’s firstholiday company for differently-abled people, will start its operations this weekend in Kerala, with the first group of tourists, comprising nearly 150 differently-abled persons, taking a day-long houseboat cruise in Alappuzha, Simon George, founder and managing director of Specialcare Holidays, said on Wednesday.
“It will be a dream come true for me and Specialcare Holidays, as I have been crusading for the cause of accessible tourism since 2004 both in public and private,” he said, adding: “It has been a shame for long that a state with tourism contributing around 12% to its GDP was not able to cater to the differently-abled persons who would wish to visit the state.”
Simon George (52) is paralysed waist-down for more than 30 years now and wheel-chair bound. He said it was estimated there are more than five million wheel-chair bound travellers in the world. “Add these with the vision and hearing impaired, mentally-challenged, the aged and the sick, who also make big chunks of travellers. A state like Kerala which depends heavily on tourism cannot ignore this huge market considering even the economic reasons alone,” George said.
According to him, an increasing number of hotels and shopping malls have been started which are providing these facilities. “But there is a long way to go to reach up to the US and European standards in acknowledging the existence of differently abled persons among ourselves, let alone providing facilities to them,” he said. “Since 2004, we have been taking up this cause and were trying to make a difference,” he said.
George also said being an organisation committed to accessible tourism, Specialcare Holidays also provides consultancy and project management services to other stakeholders in the industry. Through his efforts, the Kerala tourism department has agreed to introduce ‘accessible tourism’ as a special service to promote tourism under its ‘responsible tourism’ initiative.