Angus Drummond, founder of accessible holiday specialist Limitless Travel, talks to Abra Dunsby about empowering vulnerable people to go on holiday
For Limitless Travel’s customers social isolation is a reality, with or without the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Lockdown doesn’t mean much different to many of our clients,” says Angus Drummond, the company’s founder.
“Even without Covid many of our customers are afraid to leave the house because of their disability, and due to Covid many have been told they’re the most vulnerable.”
The sense of isolation for disabled clients makes it even more important for them to get away, believes Drummond.
The company recently recommenced some of its tours for the first time since the pandemic hit, with six clients recently returning from a trip to Blackpool, and tours of the Lake District and Cotswolds in the pipeline.
“We knew we had to make the experience as amazing as possible, even more so than the typical Limitless experience, to get people travelling again. We did that by giving them as much confidence and reassurance as we possibly could,” explains Drummond.
Safety measures were introduced on the trips, with the number of of carers attending ramped up from the usual ratio of around five to each traveller to 2:1. Travellers are also spaced out on the 50-seater coaches.
“We’re socially distanced by nature as we have a maximum of 18 people in a group – we want to offer that level of care, and to create a dynamic that allows people to get to know each other," says Drummond.
“People are now more spaced out and with the rule of six in place we’ve put tours into groups of five, and they have their own set areas on the coach.”
Drummond describes the recent Blackpool trip as “uplifting.”
“People were clearly nervous in the run-up and when they arrived – one lady who is her 80s hadn’t left the house since March and was visibly shaken – but very early on there was a big sense of release and relief from everyone, and they realised they could sit back, relax and actually have a holiday," he says.
“By the first night the lady was having the most amazing time,” says Drummond. “She said we gave her her confidence back, and she’s now talking about booking another holiday with us later this year.”
“Nothing beats being there in person with others on holiday and having that social interaction, and it was really uplifting to see that happening.”
Drummond, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in his early 20s, was inspired to create Limitless Travel after taking a year out to go travelling with his wife after his diagnosis. He describes that travel experience as both cathartic and frustrating.
“It was an amazing, healing experience for me and helped me come to terms with my disability and the future.
“It was also challenging – going to places that should have been a dream became stressful and worrying, to the point where I nearly didn’t go to the Galapagos Islands because I was too worried about getting off the boat.
“I felt that was wrong, so armed with those experiences I wanted to come back and set up a company that empowered people to travel [and promote] the idea that through travel you could actively improve your life.”
Limitless Travel, whose trips are “open to everyone”, now specialises in group travel, offering UK coach trips as well as European holidays and tours to long-haul destinations such as South Africa and Costa Rica.
“We provide an experience that offers the best care and support, and gives people that opportunity to interact with others and feel normal,” says Drummond.
The company’s clientele is made up of “a wide range of ages and people – customers in their 90s and others in their early 20s, sometimes young families,” though Drummomd says the company’s typical customer is “someone in their 70s or 80s with mobility issues.”
“We offer something for different confidence levels and support,” he adds.
During lockdown Limitless Travel aimed to tackle loneliness among clients who were self-isolating by launching its Limitless Loves campaign, providing a programme of free activities from virtual yoga sessions to bingo, quizzes and Friday karaoke sessions.
The company also launched its Limitless Virtual site, which allows clients to take virtual holidays on Zoom, with each session hosted by guides from around the world, from Pompeii to Jaipur.
“The sessions are live and interactive, so clients can ask questions and meet other people. We’re hoping to develop it over the winter to keep the appetite for travel up and people engaged with the brand,” says Drummond.
Limitless is keen to develop trade relationships and boost agents’ knowledge of selling accessible breaks. “We want to work with the trade as much as possible – we have a great product and they have a great access to our customer base,” he says.
“One challenge we find is agents’ own understanding of how to deal with disabled customers, and potentially being a bit reluctant to deal with them. We’d love to work with agents more, offering training, support and giving them a greater awareness of how to get more bookings.”
Drummond’s passion for helping disabled people to travel is palpable – he sees travel as a lifeline for many of his clients. “People aren’t just booking with us to go on holiday, it’s everything that goes with it – that feeling of empowerment that you’ve done something you didn’t think you could do.
“We firmly believe in the power travel has to reinvigorate one’s mind and passion for life.”